Mick Jackson directed 1991's L.A. Story, but there's no question that writer-star Steve Martin is its true auteur. There are unmistakable autobiographical echoes in the conflict Martin's zany weatherman feels between following the dictates of his intellect or continuing to be paid handsomely for behaving like an adolescent goofball. From the title onward, New Yorker contributor/Cheaper By The Dozen 2 star Martin seems to be aiming for a West Coast answer to Manhattan. Alas, Martin shares many of Woody Allen's weaknesses as well as his strengths, especially Allen's awkward, self-conscious, often condescending homegrown intellectualism, and his weakness for lumbering highbrow references. And though Martin casts then-girlfriend Victoria Tennant as his neurotic love interest, all the moony music cues, glamour lighting, and floppy hats in the world can't magically transform her into Diane Keaton.
A featherweight combination of light romantic comedy and sharp-witted social satire, the film casts Martin as a roller-skating weatherman who falls for journalist Tennant while still fooling around with affable airhead Sarah Jessica Parker. Martin and Parker share amazing sex. Tennant and Martin share a propensity for quoting Shakespeare. Obviously Martin and Tennant are meant to end up together—even the weather and electronic signs say so—but Parker undercuts the film's agenda by giving a performance of such effervescent charm that she ends up seeming far more appealing.
Martin's sometimes too-clever script scores some nifty satirical jabs at what passes for culture in Los Angeles, but ultimately suffers from a terminal case of the cutes; a subplot involving a magical freeway sign that dispenses romantic advice actually qualifies as one of its least precious conceits. L.A. Story aspires to a Frank Tashlin-style comic-strip surrealism, but frequently overreaches. A bit about Martin needing to visit a bank in order to eat at a pricey restaurant might make for a terrific throwaway gag, but as an entire scene, it wears out its welcome. As a passive-aggressive valentine to a city Martin seems to love and hate in roughly equal measure, L.A. Story retains a certain breezy charm. As a love letter to Tennant, however, it's far less convincing.
Key features: A featurette, an interactive map of L.A. locations, outtakes, and deleted scenes fill out this 15th-anniversary edition.