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State of Misery

Darren Michaels

Keanu in Love: Cameron Diaz leaves her new husband and runs away with Keanu Reeves in "Feeling Minnesota."

'Feeling Minnesota' feels all wrong--blame Keanu

By Richard von Busack

IS IT THAT Keanu Reeves only signs on to under-par movies, or is it just that a movie seems all the worst for his being in it? Reeves' celebrated ineptness is best glimpsed in an early moment in the don't-say-you-weren't-warned-by-the-title Feeling Minnesota. Reeves does the traditional method-actor routine of barking back at a dog to show what an untamed spirit he is, uttering a few sad little yips, like a dismayed Chihuahua; later, he apologizes to the no-doubt offended dog by springing it from the pet store.

Reeves plays Jjaks--the funny name due to a typo on his birth certificate. Since youth, he's been in bitter rivalry with his brother, Sam (Vincent D'Onofrio). After being sprung from prison, Jjaks decides to attend his brother's wedding. What Jjaks doesn't know is that the ceremony is a sham. Sam got the bride, Freddie (Cameron Diaz), as a present from his gangster boss, Red (Delroy Lindo), Freddie having embezzled $10,000 from Red. "I'm his reward, and he's my punishment," she explains. Jjaks, of course, falls for her, and they try to cut out for Vegas. In hot pursuit are outraged husband Sam and the law, represented by Dan Aykroyd. Freddie and Jjaks don't get far; the picture bogs down in a motel. The two brothers fight it out, injuring each other, and Freddie gets shot.

Director/writer Steven Baigelman's picture seems modeled on Jonathan Demme's Something Wild, but he has no compassion for the characters and the shamed-faced array of stars lurking in the underlit sets. The movie is mostly humorless slapstick. Even nonsense ought to have a focus, and this patronizing, contemptuous picture overextends its welcome on quirks, a gratuitous Courtney Love sequence (admittedly, Love looks fairly healthy for a change) and oh-so-ironic worship of faded stars like Ann-Margret.

Los Lobos did the soundtrack, the highlight of the film, but Diaz and Reeves interfere with that, too, singing over the top of "I Will Dare" by the Replacements. Still, the movie almost gets a charge out of Nancy Sinatra's sound-alike follow up to "Boots": "How Does that Grab Ya?" There was one thing about the movie that grabbed me. I've never heard the famous underground tape of Linda McCartney hopelessly trying to sing "Band on the Run," but there's a musical moment that is equally freakish on the end credits here. It's a shoe-in candidate for the worst cover song of the year, performed by an androgynous vocalist buzzing out Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." He/she is barely able to hit the four or five notes of that minimalist classic. I was sitting through the end credits going, "Oh my God, who is that unfortunate?" Did Marianne Faithful have a stroke that I hadn't read about ... maybe it's E.T. trying for a comeback as a singer? Discovering the identity of that poor thrashed musician, a major luminary of the 1960s, is the one reason to see Feeling Minnesota.

Feeling Minnesota (R; 95 min.), directed and written by Steven Baigelman, photographed by Walt Lloyd and starring Keanu Reeves, Cameron Diaz and Vincent D'Onofrio.

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From the September 12-18, 1996 issue of Metro

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