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Niagara, Niagara

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Niagara, Niagara

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If the worst big-budget studio projects tend to collapse under the weight of their own noisy hardware, indie quirkfests like Bob Gosse's Niagara, Niagara suffer from the opposite problem: They're so inconsequential, they barely register. Making an early bid to be 1998's Dream With The Fishes, this razor-thin road movie stalls almost immediately. In an alarmingly improbable meet-cute, two kleptomaniacs—one unwashed and painfully shy (E.T.'s Henry Thomas), the other suffering from Tourette Syndrome (Robin Tunney)—collide in a department store, sending the contents of their overstuffed pockets crashing to the floor. They quickly develop an awkward rapport and decide to set off on a mini-crime-spree to Canada in search of a black "Bobbi" doll's head. It's remarkable, almost inspirational, that Matthew Weiss was able to construct an entire screenplay around such a nothing premise. Despite Tunney's mastery of behavioral tics—seamlessly incorporating muscle spasms, word repetition, compulsiveness, and bursts of profanity—Weiss continually exploits her flare-ups to forward the plot, a gimmicky substitute for real narrative urgency. Take away its assortment of neurological disorders and lovers-on-the-lam clichés, and the wan Niagara, Niagara hinges on nothing more profound than a trip to the toy store.