Life or Something Like It

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“Life or Something Like It” is an example of synergy at work. There are myriad problems with the film — a pat, too-perfect ending, for example, and some pretty sloppy writing — but when seen as a whole, it has charm and grace. More than it should, certainly.

Chalk a lot of that up to Angelina Jolie, finally demonstrating that she does not have to be creepy and unsettling all the time. Here she plays Lanie Kerrigan, a Seattle TV news reporter who is just shallow enough to be believable, but disarmingly friendly enough to be likable.

Lanie has a great apartment, a handsome baseball-player boyfriend (Christian Kane) and a high-profile job. She works out every day and is the picture of health. She actually says these words: “My life is perfect.” This is akin to a slasher-film character saying, “I’ll be right back.”

While doing a human-interest story on a homeless psychic named Prophet Jack (Tony Shalhoub), Lanie gets her own future predicted, and it includes her impending death. She is only mildly freaked out, until Jack’s other prophecies (mostly dealing with the weather and sports scores) prove accurate. Will she die? How does one spend the final days of one’s life?

Since romantic comedies require the protagonist to give up one love interest in exchange for a better one, the baseball player is made to be on the road all the time and a little dumb. Lanie’s better option is her cameraman, Pete (Edward Burns), and since romantic comedies require the protagonist’s better option to be someone she initially despises, Pete is sloppy and carefree and spontaneous — the polar opposite of Lanie.

Stockard Channing has one fantastic scene as a Barbara Walters-type TV journalist whom Lanie interviews. It’s a quiet scene, subtly played, and Channing admirably overcomes the awkward way it’s written. (Basically, one simple question gets her to reveal secrets she’d never shared before.)

There is also a wonderfully silly scene in which all of Seattle, it seems, sings “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” Such an event is not believable, but when it’s perpetrated in a movie with the right style and attitude, it can work. It works here.

Early on, you ask yourself, “Is this going to be a movie about living life to the fullest and appreciating every moment?” I report somewhat wearily that the answer is yes. Unlike films that make you happy just to be alive, this one makes you feel like you’ve watched a slightly above-average, somewhat dawdly and meandering romantic comedy. You come out of it no worse for the wear, but not exactly invigorated, either.

C+ (; PG-13, some harsh profanity, some mild sexuality.)

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