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Three to Tango

Reviewed by Beth Hannan Rimmels

It would be easy to dismiss Three to Tango as a piece of mindless fluff, but in reality it’s a late ’90s version of the old screwball comedies. True, it’s not quite as good as some of the classic screwball comedies like Nothing Sacred, but few were.

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Perry (left), Platt

Oscar Novak (Matthew Perry) and Peter Steinberg (Oliver Platt) are an architectural team that desperately needs the assignment to renovate a classic old museum in Chicago. While their presentation doesn’t have the high tech flash of their competitors, their reverent remodeling plans impress millionaire Charles Newman (Dylan McDermott), who is paying for the project. Newman suggests that both architect firms design large models that will debut at a much publicized party where the winner will be picked. Sounds simple, right? Wrong.

Charles needs someone to keep an eye on his mistress, Amy Post (Neve Campbell) at her art exhibit opening. He’s concerned her impulsiveness could lead her to get back together with former boyfriend and football star Kevin Cartwright (Cylk Cozart). But Charles comes to the mistaken conclusion that Oscar is gay, so he pressures him to spy on Amy.

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Campbell (l), McDermott

Since this is a screwball/romantic comedy, it’s no surprise that everyone soon believes Oscar is gay while he falls in love with the effervescent Amy at the same time. What is a pleasant surprise is how well the shenanigans work. This could have been flat and boring, or insulting, considering the mistaken sexual orientation plot. Instead, it’s playful, charming and fun with a surprising amount of heart.

Campbell’s Amy is the perfect mix of bubbly optimism, down-to-earth bluntness and out-and-out sex appeal. It’s easy to see why men continually fall for her. Perry is everything you can imagine as the well-meaning Oscar, trapped between necessity, the right thing to do and confusion. Platt steals every scene he’s in — as usual — but the script gives him a chance to do more than just be flamboyant and funny. McDermott’s best known for his dramatic good guy roles, but here he gets to break loose playing the selfish businessman not only for laughs, but with just enough oily charm to be convincing. Cozart’s character at first appears to be the butt of a sex joke and the cause for Charles’ jealousy but there’s much more to his character than meets the eye, and Cozart does an excellent job.

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Perry (left), Campbell

There are a few problems, though. For instance, Charles’ assistant Lenore (Deborah Rush) gets the plot rolling by not only misunderstanding Peter and Oscar’s relationship but practically becoming obsessed by it. No explanation is given as to why she asks their competitors about it or why she tells Charles. There had to be another way to start the confusion. And the disasters that take place during Amy and Oscar’s first meeting felt like a Something About Mary rip-off. Do we really need people vomiting during the movie? Comedic adversity doesn’t have to be gross.

On the plus side, the scenes dealing with Oscar supposedly being gay are nicely handled. True, he puts his foot in his mouth several times talking to Peter, who is gay, but Oscar doesn’t act any different when he has to pretend to be gay. That’s a subtle but good message. The scene with Amy’s girlfriends is funny and cute when it could have been smarmy.

It ruins nothing to say that everything works out well in the end. That’s part of the formula for both a romantic and screwball comedy. Three to Tango is a good date movie or a pleasant diversion. You won’t hurt yourself laughing, but you will enjoy yourself.

A Warner Bros. release. Directed by Damon Santostefano.

 

Review 1999 Beth Hannan Rimmels. Photographs 1999 Warner Bros.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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