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At First Sight


At First Sight

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It's not that they should stop making movies about the handicapped; it's just that they should stop making movies about the handicapped like At First Sight. Based, apparently quite loosely, on an actual case written about by neurological superstar Oliver Sacks, At First Sight stars Val Kilmer as a blind masseuse (though he's not also a samurai) who falls in love with pretty architect Mira Sorvino after giving her a rubdown that moves her to tears. Seemingly within weeks, he's hopping off to New York, moving in with Sorvino, and having his sight restored through an experimental surgery. Unfortunately, his brain has difficulty adapting to his new sense, and he's reliant on doughy therapist Nathan Lane—and, of course, the love of a good woman—to help him adjust before the inevitable Flowers For Algernon/ Phenomenon story arc gets the better of him. It's an interesting story, or ought to be, but producer-director Irwin Winkler lets it play like a cardboard romance with a twist. The words, "you can't see with your eyes if your heart is blind" are never spoken, but they might as well be; lines just as corny turn up with alarming regularity. Kilmer can't make his too-good-for-this-world character into anything but a noble stereotype, Sorvino might as well have stepped in from a CBS Movie Of The Week, and one scene has Lane trying to seem convincing while leering at a stripper. It's drainingly mediocre, and its epic running time makes it feel like Kilmer should wind things up by parting the Red Sea, but At First Sight should satisfy connoisseurs of this sort of thing until Juliette Lewis shows up playing a mentally challenged youngster in producer-director Garry Marshall's The Other Sister.