In Serendipity, a self-described old-fashioned romantic comedy, two strangers meet briefly and, despite the chemistry they share, believe that if they are meant to be, fate will bring them together.
Jonathan and Sara meet when they reach for the same pair of black cashmere gloves in a crowded Manhattan department store five days before Christmas. After pleading their respective cases for who should rightfully get the gloves, Jonathan concedes. Sara buys him a coffee at a bakery called Serendipity to thank him and the two hit it off, but--alas--both are seeing other people. Sara, a firm believer in fate, jots her name and telephone number down in a book and says she will sell it to a used bookstore the following day. If she and Jonathan are destined to be together, she rationalizes, the book will find its way him. Fast forward the story into the future: Sara and Jonathan have spent the passing years pining away for each other, the memory of that magical night etched on their memories. Audiences, meanwhile, can fast forward to 85 minutes of the couple's efforts to find each other again.
The actors save Serendipity from its banal, off-the-rack plot. John Cusack plays Jonathan with enough conviction to make his character's search for his soul mate less idiotic than it actually is. The same can be said for Kate Beckinsale, who proves she has the stuff to play a romantic lead. Jeremy Piven is a wonderful actor and provides us with some of the best laughs in the movie as Jonathan's best friend Dean, an obituary writer for the New York Times who spends a little too much time quoting from the Greeks. Molly Shannon's physical brand of comedy might be a bit much for the role of Sara's pessimistic and disapproving best friend Eve; like Shannon's Saturday Night Live character Mary Katherine Gallagher, klutzy Eve is forever getting knocked around--though here the culprit tends to be sports paraphernalia. Eugene Levy has a small but hysterical part as a department store clerk, fully mastering the comportment of a stressed out salesman.
Because this is at heart a highly formulaic romantic comedy, everyone knows Jonathan and Sara will end up together, despite the fact that circumstances conspire to keep them apart. They always seem to just miss each other, after being separated by a passing bus or some other coincidence. Everyone knows that the Jonathan and Sarah's current partners are completely wrong for them. Thankfully, director Peter Chelsom assembled a cast with enough talent in the genre to pull it off. Between syrupy candlelit scenes and rose petal wedding proposals audiences will hear some really funny and well-delivered dialogue. But the film never strays from its boring story line and inevitable conclusion, and ends up being just another Sleepless in Seattle. Chelsom instead wastes a talented cast on a lame script and churns out another love-conquers-all movie.
If you like romantic comedies, you will probably enjoy this one. The story doesn't stray from the formula at all, but it does offer some good laughs and a talented cast.