Ivan Reitman, International Man of Mystery

So … the next time you hear someone railing about how stupid the star system in Hollywood is, and how no A-list actor is worth the bank he or she is paid, show them the opening weekend figures ($31.6 mil) for The Truman Show and ask them how much they think the movie would have made if, say, Jeff Bridges had been its star. Remind them, while you’re at it, that even if they make the dubious claim that Jeff Bridges is a better actor than Jim Carrey, The Truman Show is a more effective movie with Carrey in it, because the audience walks into the theatre caring more about Carrey than about Bridges. And therefore, walks into the theatre, period. More people seem to have checked out Friday’s performances of The Truman Show than attended the entire U.S. theatrical run of Peter Weir’s last movie, Fearless, which starred … Jeff Bridges.

So … the summer’s second big question is answered “Yes.” (The summer’s first big question involved Godzilla and the answer was “No.”) Next weekend, with Six Days, Seven Nights another question gets answered. The question—ah, you think it’s going to be “Will Americans accept a openly gay woman (Anne Heche) in a big-screen hetero romance,” don’t you? Well, guess what: Americans haven’t accepted Harrison Ford in a big-screen hetero romance since Peter Weir served up Kelly McGillis as an Amish hottie in Witness. Run down a list of Ford’s leading ladies over the past few years—Greta Scacchi … Julia Ormond … Alison Doody … Annette Bening, each of them about 20 years younger than he—and see if you can recall any onscreen sparks flying. Not hard to understand why that big studio blanched at the prospect of coughing up 70 million bones for Ford and Kristin Scott-Thomas to star in a, um, “Bosnian romance” … a concept almost as cinematically unlikely as “Amish hottie.”

No, instead, Culturebox asks, “Can Six Days director Ivan Reitman reinvent his career one more time?” Reitman’s career is a lesson in big-screen comedy over the past two decades. It was Reitman who first found a way to marshal the talents of Bill Murray and Harold Ramis for the big screen—culminating in the phenomenal success of Ghostbusters. Ramis once said about Reitman, not unkindly, “If Ivan had directed The Last Emperor, it would have been 102 minutes long and had a big chase at the end.”

But by the time Ghostbusters 2 came and went, Ramis and Murray were directing their own movies. So Reitman moved on to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ivan played Pygmalion to Arnold’s Galatea in a series of high-concept comedies: Twins,Kindergarden Cop, and Junior. For a post-coital shot in Twins, Schwarzenegger let Reitman set his every facial muscle for maximum comedic effect. Their collaboration was wildly successful, but would prove to be the last stand for the director-driven, high-concept comedy. Because waiting in the wings was …

… Jim Carrey, whose uninhibited roar through Ace Ventura: Pet Detective reshaped the movie-comedy landscape overnight. Directors? He don’t need no stinkin’ directors! All of sudden, over-the-top, decidedly un-directed performance were the rage (especially since sitcoms, once the province of such physically gifted performers as Lucy or even Tony Randall on The Odd Couple, had become writers’ shows in the Seinfeld mode.) As Carrey racked up hits, other comic actors followed suit. Eddie Murphy had been trapped in a series of stultifying high-concept comedies … now there he was, farting his way through the hugely successful Nutty Professor. To Hollywood, the comedy director seemed as disposable as the aging ingenue.

So…time for another Ivan Reitman incarnation. And here it is: director of an action/romance with America’s favorite hero. Can Ford carry a love story? Can you have an adventure film with only one big stunt? Will it be a Romancing the Stone for the ‘90s? One thing’s for sure about Six Days, Seven Nights: It’ll last about 102 minutes, and have a big chase at the end.