ou 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
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!