There is much to recommend in "Once Around," which, in its own quirky way, celebrates romantic love and family ties with more bravura than any film in recent memory. Yet, in the end, I was less moved than I wanted to be and felt some of the movie's more serious manipulating moments were just too soapy.
Still, there is Richard Dreyfuss, as robust and full of life as he can be in the person of Sam Sharpe, a super condo salesman who doesn't know when to quit — whether he's selling Caribbean homes or sharing his wealth with others.
And Holly Hunter (who co-starred with Dreyfuss last year in "Always") as mild-mannered Renata Bella, a younger woman who still lives with her parents and has just dropped out of a lengthy dead-end relationship.
Their romance-at-first-sight, which she initiates, is one of those bigger-than-life movie love affairs that at once seems too good to be true and captures the imagination of the audience.
But there's a hitch, of course — though in this case it's not what you might expect. Sam is loving and sweet and well-intentioned but he's also abrasive and pushy and can't take no for an answer — from anyone for any reason.
So, when he follows Renata back home to Boston and meets her tight-knit Italian family, he tries too hard to ingratiate himself and buys too many expensive presents.
And when Sam and Renata marry, what at first was a fling her parents tolerated becomes a part-of-the-family they can barely tolerate.
Up to the halfway mark, "Once Around" is mostly a comedy with an edge, and it's funny and witty and sharp-eyed with its perceptions about love and family — and love vs. family. But then something happens as the film takes on a more somber tone — it gets "serious." And soon what has been a delightful flight of fancy with some perceptive elements becomes a tedious, hurried series of unlikely or skimpily explained events designed to wrap things up neatly.
If you get into the film's rhythms you might not care. But after an enjoyable start, it lost me.
Still, as mentioned, there is much to like — in particular the performances. Aside from Dreyfuss and Hunter, who are both terrific, there's Danny Aiello, lovable (and singing — very well, I might add) as Hunter's father; Gena Rowlands, warm and caring and firm when she has to be, as Hunter's mother; and Laura San Giacomo, who is funny and bright as Hunter's says-what-she-thinks sister. The rest of the cast, though prominent in the background, is somewhat underused.
"Once Around" is rated R for profanity (which seems excessive in this context), vulgarity (primarily Dreyfuss' jokes) and sex.