The Lake House

Published: .
Updated: .

Lauren Swanson
Grade: C-

A trip to the lake house engenders images of peace, calm and lull, of rest and relaxation, decompression and rejuvenation.

It is one of those "happy places" we go to when life gets too cluttered. And nothing sounds more appealing to a weary, overworked mind than a day of doing absolutely nothing.

A trip to Alejandro Agresti's "The Lake House" takes this concept a little too far. The utter laziness inherent in this dull, cheap romance, will leave you so jaded, you'll either fall asleep until the credits appear or escape to your "happy place" just to avoid throwing up. Either way, you're better off driving by this "House."

Confounding and unfulfilling as a love story and utterly laughable as a sci-fi flick, "The Lake House" emerges in the end as no more than a toast to mediocre architecture. Indeed, a glass house built on stilts overlooking the water seems like a pretty remarkable idea, but in all practicality, it's too flimsy and unrealistic for it's own good. And that pretty much sums up the plot.

Sandra Bullock plays Kate Forster, a world-weary Chicago doctor who sells her lake house to begin working in a city hospital. She leaves a note for the new tenant, asking him to forward her mail and apologizing for the paw prints at the front door. "They were there when I bought it," she says.

New occupant Alex Wyler (Keanu Reeves), an architect in the year 2004, is utterly perplexed by the note. Not only are there no paw prints at the front door, but the house has been abandoned for years-and the note is dated 2006.

After establishing that they are living two years apart (and coming to terms with that concept all too quickly), the two of them begin communicating through letters and a seemingly magical mailbox.

As you may expect, the pair fall in love, and together must find a way to surmount the time lapse between them. Strangely enough, neither they nor their friends have trouble believing that this is possible: sure, people can exist together in parallel dimensions; sure, letters can travel through time. And sure, there is such a thing as a kind, sensitive, handsome, successful, hopeless-romantic man out there. Ah, cinema: America's leading purveyors of B.S.

"Lake House" is like one of those novels you see conveniently tucked in the back of the dime store, the ones whose pages will only be seen by single, middle-aged women in need of a good giggly-goo-goo romance novel.

Film bears the powerful ability to temporarily melt away your sense of what it is tangible and feasible. Within minutes of a good movie's start, the screen melts away and we get lost in the reality that has been created for us.

Yet "Lake House" made me bluntly aware of my surroundings at all times, like I was viewing a painting, but all I could see were a sloppy bunch of brush strokes. The film failed to suspend my disbelief.

And so I sat in the theatre, fully conscious that I was watching a movie that is nothing more than a Crock Pot of sappy love story clichés, blended together with the incompatible, even offensive ingredient of science fiction time travel. Excuse me while I laugh.

This movie deserves three slaps in the face-one for me, because I actually had high expectations for it, and two for the director, for actually spending time and money on this massive heap of cinematic lard. It's like a college grad: full of potential, but completely unsure of what it wants to do.

As soon as Alex starts comparing his romance with Kate to that of Jane Austen's "Persuasion," it becomes sickeningly apparent that this movie is drowning in unoriginality, so much so that it must compensate for its shortcomings by tying itself to a piece of work that actually resonates with its audience.

Comparing this story to "Persuasion" is like comparing McDonald's to a five-star restaurant. Its dabblings in space/time warps cheapens the simplicity of a good old-fashioned love story.

Reeves ("The Matrix") floated through the movie, using that whispery soft voice and lovesick, puppy-dog face characteristic of the chick-flick leading man cliché, waiting by his mailbox for letters from a woman that he can never meet. Actually, he could've just looked her up in the phone book. After all, we're talking two years apart, not 50. But who said movies have to be believable?

Reeves and that mailbox had more chemistry than could ever be conjured up between him and Bullock ("Miss Congeniality). After all, Reeves spent his off time from filming in the company of his mailbox-waiting for a paycheck to validate why he was in the movie in the first place.

Bullock's smile alone used to be enough to convince you to drop eight bucks to see her films. But in "Lake House" she moped through each scene, as if aware that the movie would tank, and bring her entire career with it.

The critics who actually enjoyed this movie describe it as a spectacular lesson in waiting. It may have worked for Alex and Kate. But not for me.

Lesson learned: waiting truly does pay off. Indeed. So wait for the rental.