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Film: Clint and co have fun sending themselves and their advancing years up in this OAP space caper; Space Cowboys (PG, 130mins) Me, Myself & Irene (15, 116mins) Play It To The Bone (18, 124mins).

I suppose it was only a matter of time after astronaut John Glenn returned to space a few years ago, before someone had the bright idea of sending a bunch of Hollywood's finest OAPs into orbit. And in Space Cowboys Clint Eastwood rounds up a bunch of old buddies to belatedly take part in the space race. His team are all fly-boys who, in their prime, were considered too reckless to ever be given a multi-million dollar spaceship to pilot. Only when the military have no one else to turn to do they finally get their shot...

A Russian satellite system is going loopy, and the whizzkids at NASA are powerless to stop it. Fortunately for them, the man who designed the satellite's guidance system, Dr Frank Corvin (Eastwood), is still alive. But ever since Frank was replaced in the space race by a chimp, he's borne a mighty grudge. And rather than train a youngster to fix his brilliant design he insists he go up - with his cronies for back-up. Forced to agree, the NASA bosses let Frank, Hawk (Tommy Lee Jones), Jerry (Donald Sutherland) and Tank (James Garner) head off into outer space. Without the aid of a stairlift - or should that be star-lift?

In a nutshell, Space Cowboys belongs to the movie genre about a bunch of guys who come out of retirement for one last caper. The big difference here is that they never really got to chase their dreams in the first place. Apart from that, it's business as usual as Frank tracks down his old buddies. One now designs high-speed roller coasters, one is a stunt pilot, and another has become a Baptist minister. After the training process, we finally get to the mission itself.

All pretty much what you might expect, but Clint and co have great fun sending themselves and their advancing years up. Donald Sutherland is especially good as the lady-killing Jerry. The daft sub-plot about Soviet nuclear arms notches up the tension at the expense of the gentler appeal of the film. I'd have preferred it as a meditation on age and mortality rather than an OAP action thriller, but it's solidly directed by Eastwood, nicely acted by all, and left me a lovely warm feeling. Catch the Space Cowboys while you can.

I always look forward to a new Jim Carrey movie and I'm more than a little fond of the Farrelly brothers, the inspired lunatics who created Dumb And Dumber and There's Something About Mary. So when I heard that they were collaborating on another bad-taste masterwork I had to have a little lie-down.

In Me, Myself & Irene Carrey plays Charlie a mild-mannered, strait-laced motorcycle cop who has a lot of repressed anger bottled up inside. His wife left him for a black midget limo driver. But not before she'd blessed him with three beautiful baby boys. Three beautiful black baby boys. The townsfolk treat Charlie like the joke he's become, yet he keeps a lid on it, smiling through another day of indignities and insults. Until something snaps. Good Charlie gives way to Bad Hank, the darker side of his sunny disposition. Needless to say, the boundaries of taste get stretched. There's a breast-feeding scene that is one of the funniest and tackiest moments in recent screen comedy.

Meanwhile, Irene (Renee Zellweger) has been stopped for driving a stolen car. It's her dumped boyfriend's way of getting his own back. A freshly-medicated Charlie gets the job of transporting her home. On the way they have a hilarious run-in with a dying cow and he begins to fall for Irene. Problem is he has a rival in love - his alter ego Hank.

The first half of the film is pure gold - hilarious, laugh-out-loud, gross-out comedy. Much as I love this sort of thing, I can't help but feel that towards the end they lose the plot. What starts as a startlingly funny breath of fresh air ends as a lame re-run of the old Steve Martin comedy The Man With Two Brains. That said, it still has so many vintage moments of insanely tasteless humour that I insist you go and see it. It's jaw-achingly funny.

At their best, boxing movies provide all the thrills, spills and action you could hope for plus top-notch drama. Sadly, Play It To The Bone fails on both counts but it's by no means the worse celebration of the sweet science I've endured.

Woody Harrelson plays Vince, an over-the-hill pro whose chance of ever being champ may have slipped away but who has found God as a way of dealing with it. His best friend is Cesar (Antonio Banderas) whose one shot at the big prize ended in him being knocked down. Despite his protests to the contrary, he was accused of taking a dive.

When a scheduled fight on a big pay-per-view evening falls through the two get a call. If they can get to Las Vegas and fight each other, they can make some good money. Also the winner will get a shot at the world title. Before you can say "highly improbable plot" they're on the road to Nevada. Along the way they bicker, argue and almost have a fight before they get there. So the scene is set for a grudge match with a difference - two best mates with everything to win and everything to lose.

The fight sequence at the end is neither up to the standard of the greats nor as flashily thrilling as those in Snatch. Although when you have two guys knocking the tar out of each other you can't fail to get pulses pounding a little. The acting is OK and the storyline holds your interest, but it's a bit like watching an average boxer go through his paces - fairly entertaining but not so great you'd want it to last a minute longer.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Ross, Jonathan
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 22, 2000
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