The Third Wheel review by Mike Long

Maybe it's morbid curiosity, but I'm always interested in seeing films which have been "shelved". These are movies which were announced and shot, and then disappeared, only to suddenly surface on home-video or cable. What makes many of these films even more interesting is the fact that they have well-known casts. Upon seeing these movies, it's understandable why most of them were hidden away from the world, but occasionally you come across a winner. The Third Wheel, which was shot in 2001, but didn't see the light of day in the U.S. until 2004, falls somewhere in-between.

Luke Wilson stars in The Third Wheel, as Stanley, a somewhat high-strung office-worker who has a crush on a new employee named Diana (Denise Richards). After several months, and constant nagging from his co-worker Michael (Ben Affleck), Stanley gets up the nerve to ask Diana out, and she accepts. Having thought about his date for months, Stanley has the perfect romantic evening planned, but everything goes down the drain when Stanley hits a pedestrian named Phil (Jay Lacopo) with his car. Phil claims to be uninjured, but Diana is concerned for him. Unsure what to do with Phil, Stanley allows this odd, seemingly crazy man to come along on the date, turning an evening of romance into a night of insanity.

The Weinsteins are often praised for being the masters of Hollywood promotions, but they make odd choices in which films they choose to promote and which ones they allow to die. Miramax/Dimension is the company which let the excellent Below and the entertaining Equilibrium fall under the radar of most filmgoers. (And they seem to be doing the same thing with the current film Ella Enchanted.) And the same thing seems to have happened with The Third Wheel. While watching this film, one can get an idea of why the movie MAY be an embarrassment. It contains many well-known actors, but overall it's not a great movie. But, it's still a lot better than many of the big-budget, over-hyped movies out there.

The problem with the film is that it never quite decides what it wants to be. It's part comedy, part pseudo-drama, and part "thinking man's film". The result is a movie that never quite lives up to its potential, nor does it take advantage of its cast. Wilson plays the "Nervous Nellie" type which would be better suited for Ben Stiller. For once, Richards isn't totally annoying, and actually has some nice moments. Lacopo is very good as the enigmatic Phil. As Ben Affleck isn't the star of The Third Wheel, he's very loose and has some great lines. However, it's Greg Pitts, the "O Face" guy from Office Space who steals the film in a very odd performance. (Aside from these actors, the film is filled with recognizable faces. Half the fun of watching The Third Wheel is playing the "Where do I know them from?" game.) At 87-minutes (which includes an end credits sequence which runs for about five minutes), one gets the feeling that the film has been whittled down from its original running time. (Many of these "shelved" films get this treatment.) Thus, the story never really gets fleshed-out (it takes almost 20-minutes for the date to start), and the ending is somewhat ambiguous. (I asked my wife about the religious implications of the ending and she looked at me as if I were crazy.) Still, the movie does contain some genuinely funny moments and some moving ones as well, and if nothing else, Phil is an interesting character. The Third Wheel isn't great, but it didn't deserve to be hidden away either and is definitely worth a rental.

The Third Wheel rides onto DVD courtesy of Miramax Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp, but there are some noticeable problems. The image shows an amount of grain which isn't overwhelming or distracting, but is still noticeable. There are some subtle defects from the source material. Artifacting elements are present throughout the film in small quantities. On the plus side, the colors are fine and the brightness of the image is well-balanced. The DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, which is fine, but unremarkable. The dialogue is always clear and intelligible, and there are some subtle moments of surround sound and stereo effects, but otherwise the audio doesn't offer much. There are no extra features on this DVD.

6 out of 10 Jackasses

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