Punch-Drunk Love

From the Chicago Reader (October 4, 2002). — J.R.

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The fourth feature of writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson (after Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, and Magnolia) is a stridently wacky romantic comedy that stands or falls on whether you find Adam Sandler funny as a small businessman working out of a warehouse in greater Los Angeles. He didn’t make me laugh once, and neither did his costar Emily Watson, though Philip Seymour Hoffman, in what amounts to a cameo, made me laugh once or twice. I tend to like quirkiness, but this arch effort is so eager to be quirky nearly everything winds up willfully mannered, from Jon Brion’s flashy percussive score to the hyperbolically absurdist plot. Still, I wouldn’t have minded the Hollywood schlock lurking behind the studied weirdness if I’d believed in any of the characters on any level. With Luiz Guzman. 91 min. (JR)

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