A Cool, Dry Place

on January 29, 1999 by Tim Cogshell
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When we first meet Russ Nash (Vince Vaughn) in "A Cool Dry Place," several critical things have already happened. His wife, Kate ("Patch Adams'" Monica Potter), has abandoned him and their young son, Calvin (Bobby Moat); he's lost his fast-track job at a prestigious Chicago law firm; and he has moved to a small Kansas community where he's taken a daddy-track job at a not-so-prestigious practice. Perhaps most importantly, he's already feeling the angst of living a life drastically different from the one he'd planned.
It's "Kramer vs. Kramer" meets "Mr. Mom," and "A Cool Dry Place," directed by "Dangerous Minds'" John N. Smith, is a much better movie than it might have been had it not adopted some of the better elements of each of those films. It has the reality of the Dustin Hoffman classic--the pain of abandonment and a child's unease--and the fish-out-of-water humor of the latter: Russ pours the Ragu right from the jar onto the spaghetti.
As he tries to come to grips with his new life, he has yet to acquire any understanding of what happened to his old one. In the meantime, Russ is the dutiful father, while Calvin is a typical little boy, in constant motion with a bottomless supply of questions. Russ' parenting ranges from loving, patient attempts to meet every need and answer every question, to at-wits'-end screaming matches over the most inane issues.
When Russ finds himself in a relationship with an earthy local woman, Beth ("Chasing Amy's" Joey Lauren Adams), he begins to think he may have a life after all. Then the wholly expected happens: Kate comes back. Predictable questions arise (Will they reunite? Will Russ take the job in Dallas and give up Calvin?), and the film devolves into trite melodrama. But on the strength of several good performances, the authenticity of emotion remains intact. Starring Vince Vaughn, Joey Lauren Adams, Monica Potter and Bobby Moat. Directed by John N. Smith. Written by Matthew McDuffie. Produced by Katie Jacobs and Gale Mutrux. A Fox Release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for sexuality and brief strong language. Running time: 98 min.
Tags: Starring Vince Vaughn, Joey Lauren Adams, Monica Potter, Bobby Moat. Directed by John N. Smith. Written by Matthew McDuffie. Produced by Katie Jacobs, Gale Mutrux, Fox, Drama
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