Ewan McGregor stars as a cleaning man in L.A. who takes his boss's daughter hostage after being fired and replaced by a robot
A Life Less Ordinary does have plenty going for it, scalpel-sharp direction, nicely judged performances, a believable chemistry between the leads. But crucially the spark, the sheer thrill and enthusiasm that ignited its predecessors, is noticeably absent. Even taken on its own terms, this makes for a lesser overall experience. In fact, it's apparent right from the curiously subdued outset (depicting a Capra-esque vision of the afterlife: a 60's police station decked out in dazzling white) that this is going to be a comfortable, rather than adrenaline-fuelled watch.
Having faced the charge from on-high that the world is caught in a plight of too much divorce and sorrow, and that true love these days frankly is just false, a pair of angels (Lindo and Hunter) are despatched to earth by their celestial boss Angel Gabriel (Dan Hedaya). They are given one chance to make good and bring love where it is least expected. If they fail, heaven won't have them back. The mismatched twosome they have to unite are Robert (McGregor), a layabout Scots cleaner who has just been laid off in favour of a robot, dumped by his girlfriend and summarily evicted from his home, and Celine (Diaz), his former boss' super-rich, spoilt daughter, who shoots apples off people's heads for fun.
In a last-ditch effort to get his own back on said former employer (a scenery-chewing Ian Holm), Robert more by luck than judgement kidnaps Celine, and the pair head cross¬country. With the angels, now posing as hitmen, in hot pursuit they proceed along the way botching bank robberies, bickering incessantly and, inevitably, falling for each other. As the action unfolds, the overall impression is that Boyle set out to make a frothy, feel-good romantic yarn, something a little different from the trio's previous output, only to remember that heavy artillery, comical yet menacing bad guys and at least one moment of eye-watering agony (the faint of heart may care to avert their gaze during Ewan's moment in the dentist's chair) would add that all-important "cool" edge and spice things up enormously.
The result is a surfeit of ideas which have great potential but little fruition, leaving the viewer a tad confused as to the true nature of the picture and in anticipation of a big twist that never comes. You hat has to be taken off though, to the leads, McGregor doing hapless with ease to create his most sympathetic character to date, and Diaz the closest thing to luminous in the whole movie, who hold the film together during its slow patches, and are always watchable.
But in spite of it's flaws, a handful of the scenes (McGregor's many failed attempts to make a threatening ransom demand being one of them) are spot-on in their combination of skewed humour and originality, and work just well enough to hold the attention throughout.
If only the rest of A Life Less Ordinary had been as smart and funny (which, oddly enough, it rarely is for a comedy), what a triumph it might have been.