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‘The Pallbearer’ A Lifeless Debut For ‘Friends’ Star

Fri., May 3, 1996, midnight

The movie is called “The Pallbearer,” and it sure could use a few. Set to open in theaters nationally today, it comes to us DOA.

David Schwimmer - best known as the nerdy paleontologist on TV’s “Friends” - is the star. As Tom Thompson, a 25-year-old aspiring architect from Brooklyn, Schwimmer plays a variation on his adenoidal small-screen persona in the new big-screen comedy.

The plot is set in motion when Tom is asked to be a pallbearer at the funeral of a high-school classmate. This request comes from Ruth Abernathy (Barbara Hershey), the dead classmate’s mother, who somehow has gotten it into her head that Tom and her son were close.

Tom doesn’t even remember the guy, but he goes along out of respect for Ruth’s grief. And before he quite knows what is happening, he finds himself in a Benjamin/Mrs. Robinson relationship with the older woman.

Meanwhile, Tom is attempting to romance Julie (Gwyneth Paltrow), a beautiful young woman he knew in high school, who has just come back into his life.

In his feature-film debut, director/co-writer Matt Reeves tries for a wistfully funny tone. But what he ends up with just lies there - like “The Graduate” on life support.

Paltrow does have a few effectively soulful moments, but her character is badly underwritten. As for the woman Hershey plays, I have no idea what to make of her - or of the performance, for that matter.

Once in a while, Schwimmer gets a laugh with that quirky timing of his, which is also funny (in small doses) on TV. But much of the time he appears to have been directed to stare blankly ahead with his mouth open.

Not long into “The Pallbearer” I was staring back.

MEMO: These 2 sidebars appeared with the story: 1. “The Pallbearer” Locations: North Division cinemas Credits: Directed by Matt Reeves, starring David Schwimmer, Gwyneth Paltrow, Barbara Hershey, Michael Rapaport Running time: 1:37 Rating: PG-13

2 OTHER VIEWS Here’s what other critics say about “The Pallbearer:” Joe Baltake/Sacramento Bee: You have to admire the makers of “The Pallbearer” because their film could have easily been another “guy flick” with Adam Sandler or Pauly Shore or Mike Myers or Dana Carvey in the lead role, goofing off. Schwimmer makes a major film debut here, along the lines of Hoffman’s breakthrough in “The Graduate.” Michael H. Price/Fort Worth Star-Telegram: It helps to remember, in considering Matt Reeves’ debut film “The Pallbearer,” that almost 30 years ago, Mike Nichols’ “The Graduate” was dismissed in some influential quarters as a common exploitation picture. And yet “The Graduate” has held up as an enduring reflection of the confused youth of any generation - still viewed and discussed where its era’s true exploitation movies have become mere nostalgia. It will require time and lots of it to tell whether “The Pallbearer” has such staying power, but for now this understated and modest film seems to be concerned more with what it’s like to be young and disoriented - period - than with what it’s like to be a mixed-up twentysomething in the 1990s.

These 2 sidebars appeared with the story: 1. “The Pallbearer” Locations: North Division cinemas Credits: Directed by Matt Reeves, starring David Schwimmer, Gwyneth Paltrow, Barbara Hershey, Michael Rapaport Running time: 1:37 Rating: PG-13

2 OTHER VIEWS Here’s what other critics say about “The Pallbearer:” Joe Baltake/Sacramento Bee: You have to admire the makers of “The Pallbearer” because their film could have easily been another “guy flick” with Adam Sandler or Pauly Shore or Mike Myers or Dana Carvey in the lead role, goofing off. Schwimmer makes a major film debut here, along the lines of Hoffman’s breakthrough in “The Graduate.” Michael H. Price/Fort Worth Star-Telegram: It helps to remember, in considering Matt Reeves’ debut film “The Pallbearer,” that almost 30 years ago, Mike Nichols’ “The Graduate” was dismissed in some influential quarters as a common exploitation picture. And yet “The Graduate” has held up as an enduring reflection of the confused youth of any generation - still viewed and discussed where its era’s true exploitation movies have become mere nostalgia. It will require time and lots of it to tell whether “The Pallbearer” has such staying power, but for now this understated and modest film seems to be concerned more with what it’s like to be young and disoriented - period - than with what it’s like to be a mixed-up twentysomething in the 1990s.



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