Main cast: Gwyneth Paltrow (Liv), Huey Lewis (Ricky Dean), Paul Giamatti (Todd), Andre Braugher (Reggie), Scott Speedman (Billy), Lochlyn Munro (Ronny Jackson) and Maria Bello (Suzi)
Director: Bruce Paltrow
This movie revolves around how the karaoke machine saves lives and redeem the stray back to the true path, and no, it is not a horror movie. Duets is a pretty pleasant and even inoffensive drama that is unfortunately too fluffy to make an impact.
Six people’s lives are about to changed by the karaoke machine, and for the better (believe that!). Ricky Dean is a hustler who just discovers his daughter whom he has never known, and their relationship blooms over karaoke sessions. Todd, a yuppie, has a breakdown and goes out to buy a pack of cigarettes – and never stops driving until he picks up an escaped convict Reggie. Together they discover an unlikely friendship over karaoke. Meanwhile, the eternal optimist cab driver Billy meets hard-hearted woman and karaoke addict Suzi.
All make their way – some stumble – to Omaha for the grand Karaoke Finals.
Thing is, it helps that the actors here are decent singers. Huey Lewis a karaoke amateur – hah, who are they kidding? But my, Gwyneth Paltrow’s nasal, sultry rendition of Kim Carnes’s Bette Davis Eyes is a highlight. But ultimately Duets is better off a Hallmark movie one can watch at cable. The acting is good, but the script is just too intent on making statements while playing it safe. As a result, Todd’s breakdown is forced, unrealistic, and ineffective, and most insulting is token black guy Reggie’s ultimate reason in this movie as his white buddy’s conscience. Suzi’s redemption by Billy’s Deepak Chopra speeches (which can be grating, his nice smile notwithstanding), takes place after a five-minute puke in a toilet cubicle. Nice.
It is only Ricky and Liv’s relationship that rings real, although there’s this uneasy feeling of mine that Ricky and Liv are looking at each other in more than a parent-daughter manner. Never mind. At the end of the day, Duets is pleasant, boasts some nice singing, and yes, for a moment I am convinced that maybe it’s not a nice thing to make fun of karaoke singers. For a moment, that is.