The Boston Phoenix

DIRECTED BY: Chris Columbus

REVIEWED: 12-27-98

Of all the films that addressed dying this year -- One True Thing, What Dreams May Come, Jack Frost -- Chris Columbus's Stepmom may be the only one in which the Big Moment can't come fast enough.

Susan Sarandon plays Jackie, the prototypically perfect mom who clashes with Isabel (Julia Roberts), the young, fashion-photographer girlfriend of her ex-husband (Ed Harris). The two women hiss and claw at each other in a series of protracted run-ins that would lead you to believe Isabel is the only babysitter in the Manhattan area. Meanwhile, Jackie's two kids (Jena Malone and Liam Aiken) act out precociously and ask a lot of uncomfortable questions about love. But when Jackie discovers she has cancer, the clan must reconsider their strained relationships and -- yawn -- work to become a family.

Yes, Sarandon's Jackie is so self-righteous, so annoying, that to be rid of her almost seems a good thing. And though the acting isn't atrocious, the script (five writers share credit) crams in every divorce and terminal-illness cliché known to humankind. Stepmom's a weepie, all right -- the kind that makes you cry when you realize it's only half over.

--Alicia Potter

Capsule Reviews

Other Films by Chris Columbus
Bicentennial Man
Nine Months

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