‘Shoes’ presents a sassy and sensible pair

A mixture of elderly humor and sugary chick-flick sappiness leaves audiences of “In Her Shoes” (Fox) entertained, but sobbing discreetly in the back row. Like a stiletto heel, the movie is cute and sassy, but precarious enough for the possibility of a stumble.

Maggie Feller (Cameron Diaz) is a spacey, unemployed party girl who milks her successful sister, Rose (Toni Collette), for everything she’s worth, especially her massive collection of designer shoes. After Rose kicks Maggie out of their “shared” apartment, Maggie, with nowhere to turn, hops on a train to Miami to in hopes of staying in her long lost grandmother’s retirement home.

Toni Collette (“The Sixth Sense”) provides a respectable performance as the “stable” sister, but seems to be struggling in the one-liner department. Conversely, Cameron Diaz, in her first serious acting role, does a great job at being crazy and quirky, but can be hard to believe at crucial moments. For example, it is almost painful to watch the beautiful actress sound out letters like a kindergartener while she is being taught how to read (by a blind man on his deathbed, of all people). Shirley MacLaine (“Steel Magnolias”) shines as Ella Hirsch, the grandmother who has stayed out of her granddaughters’ lives until recently.

The true hooks of the film are not Diaz’s big blue eyes, but the hilarious lines from Ella’s peers at the retirement home. “I’ll take it to my grave . probably tomorrow,” says Ella’s aged friend, Mrs. Leftkowitz, (Francine Beers). The relationship between Ella and Lewis (Jerry Adler), the hunk of the nursing home, is also adorable.

Speaking of relationships, this girly movie certainly does not forget to leave them out. Mark Fuerstein (“Rules of Engagement”) plays Simon, the dorky but cute lawyer whom Rose begins dating. Fuerstein, unfortunately, did not sweep me off my feet. His cheesiness left me chugging my diet coke to get the bad taste out of my mouth that his performance let me with.

As far as the writing goes, I would give Jennifer Weiner, the author of the novel that “In Her Shoes” is based on, and Susannah Grant, the screenplay writer, an average rating. Putting a gorgeous, consummate party girl in the center of a retirement home is quite original, and there are the occasional laugh-out-loud moments, but the overdramatic lines of Rose’s and Simon’s characters did not bring tears to my eyes. What did, as embarrassed as I am to admit, were the hints throughout the film of sisterly bonding. Go see this movie with a sister, not a boy.

“In Her Shoes” opens nationwide Oct. 7.

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