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Stranger than Fiction (****)
Directed by Marc Forster
Written by Zach Helm
Principal Cast
Will Ferrell -- Harold Crick
Denise Hughes -- Carla
Tony Hale -- Dave
Maggie Gyllenhaal -- Ana Pascal
Helen Young -- Customer
Emma Thompson -- Kay Eiffel
Queen Latifah -- Penny Escher
Tom Hulce -- Dr. Cayly
Linda Hunt -- Dr. Mittag-Leffler
Dustin Hoffman -- Professor Jules Hilbert
Kristin Chenoweth -- Anchorwoman
Ratings
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

Stranger than Fiction Stranger than Fiction could be based on a Theodore Sturgeon story from Unknown or it could be based on a Charlie Kaufman screenplay, but actually it is an original script by Zach Helm, who prior to this film has written one TV movie I never heard of, acted in one TV episode I didn't see, and directed one film that won't be out until next year.

Like many of the stories in Unknown, it takes one "what if" and develops it with rigorous, realistic logic. I remember an Unknown story that asked, "What if you woke up between Monday and Tuesday, while Tuesday was still under construction?" Stranger than Fiction asks, "What if you suddenly began to hear narration nobody else can hear, and discover that you are a character in a story being written by somebody else?"

Every review of Stranger than Fiction that I've seen mentions Charlie Kaufman, author of Being John Malkovich, where people pay for the chance to be somebody famous, and Adaptation, where an author enters into his own screenplay. But Kaufman seems to be toying with his characters, cat and mouse. This film is warmer and more human. Zach Helm likes his characters. Kaufman dissects his.

I don't go to see many comedies these days, because most of the laughs seem to involve going to the bathroom, which I never found all that amusing. But I laughed out loud several times watching Stranger than Fiction, because the jokes are the best kind of jokes: unexpected truths.

Whether you will like this film is a matter of taste. It doesn't have dragons. The acting is amazing, if you care for that sort of thing. It has a 7.9 rating at IMDB, but the comment pages have a lot of WTFs. Well, as Robert A. Heinlein was fond of saying, that's what makes horse races. I liked it a lot.

Copyright © 2006 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.


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