In "The Bachelor," Chris O'Donnell plays Jimmie Shannon, the last one of his group of male friends to remain single. But after a three-year relationship with beauty Renèe Zellweger, and after she catches the bride's bouquet at Artie Lange's wedding,
O'Donnell decides to finally ask for her hand in marriage. But his inability to completely commit to the idea of matrimony leads him to mess up his proposal, setting up a chain of events that tests their love. O'Donnell's botched attempt sends grandfather Peter Ustinov to the grave, leaving behind a $100 million estate. But as Ustinov's videotaped will soon reveals, in order to inherit the money, O'Donnell must marry a woman by his 30th birthday -- the very next day.
This premise sets up a potentially predictable plot, but happily, the audience is treated to a sweet story with only a little contrivance. The women to whom O'Donnell proposes are funny and believable, all refusing his proposals in their own special way. Even Mariah Carey and Brooke Shields each have an opportunity to reject his overtures.
Many of the characters give fun performances -- Ustinov is delightfully cranky, stockbroker Hal Holbrook presents a droll, charming sense of reality, and priest James Cromwell indulgently follows O'Donnell and Lange around while they search for the right woman.
Director Gary Sinyor doesn't quite manage to capture the sparkle of the original 1925 Buster Keaton version on which this film is based, but he does manage to give us a few clever scenes, and some good chuckles. One scene in particular, with Zellweger and her sister visiting their too-in-love parents, is especially funny.
Aside from one or two convenient twists in the plot (just how Lange manages to place an ad in that day's newspaper after the sun has already come up is a big mystery), some crude language and a bit too much cigarette and cigar smoking, there isn't much that insults the audience's intelligence.
Most already know that a sea of brides will eventually chase down Chris O'Donnell, trying to marry into his inheritance. But how that whole situation resolves is actually a little unexpected. "The Bachelor" is certainly not the best romantic comedy ever made, but it is a perfect date movie and a fun diversion from the angst of reality.
*MPAA rating: PG-13, for language.
Chris O'Donnell: Jimmy
Renèe Zellweger: Anne
Artie Lange: Marco
Edward Asner: Gluckman
Hal Holbrook: O'Dell
James Cromwell: Priest
Marley Shelton: Natalie
A New Line Cinema production. Director Gary Sinyor. Producers Lloyd Segan and Bing Howenstein. Executive producers Michael De Luca, Chris O'Donnell and Langley. Screenplay Steve Cohen. Cinematographer Simon Archer. Production designer Craig Stearns. Editor Robert Reitano. Composers David A. Hughes and John Murphy. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes.