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SEPTEMBER 13, 1999: 

Stir of Echoes

There's money in the dead, as the makers of The Sixth Sense have learned and as Martin Scorsese will probably confirm with his upcoming, aptly titled Bringing Out the Dead. There are many more to come. If you can't beat mortality, you might as well make a killing with it. Not that David Koepp's Stir of Echoes is exploitative and strictly generic -- at least, not to begin with.

Kevin Bacon is gruffly convincing as Tom, a Chicago family man and disgruntled phone-company lineman who's goaded by his flaky sister-in-law Lisa (Illeana Douglas) into undergoing hypnosis at a beery party. Whereupon he starts seeing things -- a shattered fingernail, a gray-faced girl on a sofa -- and the Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black" keeps running through his head. Pretty soon he's addicted to orange juice and digging up the backyard.

Koepp, whose work has ranged from the pretentious but fitfully creepy The Trigger Effect to the pure hackery of the Jurassic Park screenplay, here finds a more or less happy medium. He's adept at re-creating the gritty ambiance of Tom's Bridgeport neighborhood and the frustration and comfort of his tough family love; he's even more effective at subtly disrupting this world with intimations of madness and revelation. Unfortunately, with its tired borrowings from The Exorcist, The Shining (Tom's young psychic son, played by Zachary David Cope, at times outshines the young adept in The Sixth Sense), and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Echoes just leads to another dead end.

-- Peter Keough

Love Stinks

This self proclaimed "unromantic" comedy tries to garner laughs by playing on the downside of love. What it does is rekindle the misogynistic notion that women are husband hunters who judge a guy by the size of his, uh, wallet -- and that they'll stop at nothing to achieve their goal. Successful sit-com writer Seth (French Stewart, looking like Martin Short and sounding like Jimmy Stewart) meets babealicious Chelsea (Bridgette Wilson) at the wedding of Larry (MTV's Bill Bellamy as the sounding-board buddy) and Holly (bland supermodel Tyra Banks). It's love at first sight -- at least for one half of the equation.

After a blissful but brief courtship, Chelsea connives her way into cohabitation, and she has her sights set on a four-carat diamond, a white wedding, and joint credit cards. Seth balks and Chelsea morphs into the bitch from hell, putting hair remover in his shampoo, getting him ejected from his own abode, and then slapping him with a palimony suit. The sophomoric gags that in a Farrelly film would be considered brass-balled wit here just accentuate the inane writing and a flaccid plot. The story line does ultimately strike a cord of inspiration in the rompish conclusion, but by that time all the love is gone.

-- Tom Meek

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