Cover Story (2002) Movie Review

You know you’re about to watch a pretty bad movie when you notice that a character — who is living in a fancy and expensive penthouse suite — is typing on a computer with a 25 MHz processor, an ancient computer system that I didn’t even know still existed, much less still in use in the year 2002. This instinct is further proven correct when the next scene is the interior of a magazine’s main headquarters, which looks strangely like a poorly decorated soundstage — or a really small warehouse dressed up to look like a soundstage.

Elizabeth Berkley, still suffering from the decision to bare everything in the ill-conceived “Showgirls”, plays the smart publisher of the magazine. We know Berkley’s Sam Noble is smart because she wears glasses, although why she keeps taking them off at the first opportunity is a bit of a mystery. When a mysterious woman sends Noble her personal diaries about a secret love affair with some mysterious men, Noble is intrigued. Her investigation leads her to reclusive millionaire Peck (Jason Priestley), who is presently building a dam that may have mob ties. Because, you know, when I think of exciting conspiracies, I think of…dam building?

Why a magazine publisher is running around chasing a story is a question only writer Ron Base knows. In fact, much of “Cover Story” is a mystery to me, including why the dialogue sounds so tripe and silly, even when they’re supposed to be clever. Besides that, lead Elizabeth Berkley can’t pull off the smart woman role with any semblance of conviction. Even when her character is quoting “Don Quixote” she sounds as if she’s reading the passages directly off a cue card. It probably bears noting that every character in the movie keeps mentioning how smart and ambitious Noble is, as if the filmmakers realized the audience wouldn’t buy it if they didn’t have every single character in the movie harping on this particular theme.

After Noble is lured to a late-night rendezvous with Peck’s young brother Mark (JR Bourne), Noble spurns Mark’s advances, which ends with Mark on the floor dead. Noble flees and pretends it never happened, but that’s only the beginning of her problem. The cops immediately latch onto her as a suspect, including Detective ex-boyfriend Dodd (Costas Mandylor). Caught, Noble confesses to being at Mark’s place, but not to killing him — he was alive when she left. Instead of bothering with who killed who and why, I have a better question: If Dodd is Noble’s ex-boyfriend and everyone seems to know this, including Dodd’s partner, why in the world is Dodd allowed to conduct the investigation? Hasn’t anyone in this unnamed city ever heard of “conflict of interest?”

Or should the real question be: Why is “Cover Story” so poorly written, acted, and directed? I’m sure not all of the movie’s big faults belong exclusively in Berkley’s corner. She has obviously latched herself onto a screenplay with the intention of playing against type; only it doesn’t work because it’s not her. She’s good as the bimbo, the airhead, and not the “smart magazine publisher”-type. I’m sorry, but that’s just how it is, and Berkley would be better off to realize her limitations as an actor and stick with what she does best. Roles like this only embarrass her. Again, I hate to say it, because it sounds mean, but it’s true.

“Cover Story” is a bad movie, with a poor screenplay and uninteresting direction. The film has the look and feel of a low-budget movie trying to be more than it is, and I’m pretty sure they blew half of the movie’s budget on the ballroom sequence early in the film. It also doesn’t help that top-billed Jason Priestly looks bored by the whole thing, although you could chalk it up to the mysterious character he’s supposed to be playing. Still, being a fan of Priestley, I’m glad to see him up and working in the aftermath of his car accident. (Although I’m not sure when this movie was made, since his accident took place in 2002, the same year as the film’s supposed production date.) Even so, one can’t help but notice that he doesn’t have the pep of his old self. But maybe it’s just the character…?

If you like by-the-numbers plotting and a movie with all the excitement of a standard Movie of the Week, than “Cover Story” isn’t such a bad film. It’s very humorous to see “magazine publisher” Noble running around acting like Nancy Drew, and the fact that no one ever bothers to question why she’s doing it. Then again, since everyone seems especially concern with convincing us, the audience, that Noble is smart and ambitious, they probably didn’t have time to wonder why this weird lady is running around investigating stories when she’s supposed to be running a magazine. You would think that running a magazine would take up a lot of one’s time, but apparently not. Noble even has time to go on a stake out!

Eric Weston (director) / Ron Base (screenplay)
CAST: Elizabeth Berkley …. Samantha Noble
Jason Priestley …. JC Peck
Costas Mandylor …. Kevin Dodd
JR Bourne …. Mark Peck

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