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AUGUST 9, 1999: 

RUNAWAY BRIDE. If you consider the romantic comedy as a genre in need of therapy, Runaway Bride is one step closer to epiphany. Just shy of a decade after Pretty Woman, Richard Gere once again appears in a convertible to rescue Julia Roberts from a lifetime of choices hindered by low self-esteem. This time, instead of a lonely rich guy who meets a hooker with a heart of gold, we have the more pedestrian Ike, a divorced and cynical USA Today columnist from NYC who takes on the charming and misunderstood Maggie (Roberts), whose four dramatic flights from the altar are the story's centerpiece -- call it Four Weddings Without A Funeral. It's a pretty typical Prince Charming tale, with the one delightful twist that the fair maiden flees at every moment of imminent princely rescue. The Hollywood love story still has a long way to go, but Runaway Bride is one fantasy film refreshingly free of stalking, obsession, revenge and other psychotic behaviors. That's progress. -- Mari Wadsworth

THE SIXTH SENSE. A lot of contemporary "actors" actually have only one facial expression: Michael Keaton does "confused," Harrison Ford does "perplexed" and Hugh Grant does "sheepish." Bruce Willis' specialty is a kind of gentle, supportive, avuncular smile -- a smile that says, "Hey, you're okay, champ." Here, he uses that smile as child psychologist Malcolm Crowe, who is helping a little boy who lives in fear. The boy, it seems, can see ghosts. Meanwhile, Willis can't communicate with his wife ever since one of his former patients shot him in the stomach. Hmmm. You might want to skip the boring first hour and come in late to check out the groovy undead people and the weird ending. -- DiGiovanna

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