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by: Scott Renshaw

If I were writing a film project for myself, I can't say I wouldn't include a scene where I got to kiss Sophie Marceau. That's the thing about a commercial art form like film -- sometimes it's difficult to separate your emotions from your better judgment. David Spade has proven himself extremely funny as a certain kind of character in a certain kind of context, and he's extremely funny again in LOST & FOUND when he decides to be that character in those contexts. Then he starts trying to stretch in a dozen different directions at once, and the whole thing collapses into a tries-too-hard comedy without a distinct identity.

LOST & FOUND casts Spade as Dylan Ramsey, struggling Los Angeles restaurateur and serial monogamist. His latest infatuation is his new neighbor, a French cellist named Lila Dubois (Sophie Marceau) recently relocated to L. A. to make it as a professional musician. Lila's only infatuation, however, appears to be her cairn terrier Jack, a dog with a propensity for running away. Dylan, spotting a chance to spend some quality time with Lila, decides to kidnap Jack himself so he can help Lila find the missing dog. Complications ensue when Jack is responsible for losing a diamond anniversary ring Dylan is holding for his business partner (Mitchell Whitfield), making it impossible to return the dog. Further complications ensue when Lila's womanizing ex-fiance (Patrick Bruel) arrives to challenge Dylan for Lila's affections.

Leaving aside for a moment the improbable pairing of the elfin Spade and the porcelain Marceau, LOST & FOUND actually has a number of solid comic moments, assuming you're in tune with Spade's routine. He's from the cynical and sarcastic school, an acid-tongued character who takes simple lines and twists them into something better with his delivery. He's also not shy about throwing in sly pop culture references without providing mountains of context, like asking his frighteningly devoted personal assistant (Artie Lange) if he ever worked for Selena (the singer was shot and killed by her former fan club president). Spade is at his best when he's smarter than everyone else around him and knows it; even his killer karaoke rendition of Neil Diamond's "Brother Love's Travelin' Salvation Show" shows him in winking command of kitsch.

Much of LOST & FOUND, however, suggests that he either doesn't know his own strengths or doesn't trust them to carry a film. In fact, Spade and his co-writers often seem desperate to make viewers like the film by association with other films. The traumas to which Dylan inadvertently subjects the dog evoke thoughts of THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, as does the musical closing credits sequence. The presence of corpulent "MadTV" alum Artie Lange, meanwhile, suggests an attempt to revisit Spade's successful pairings with the late Chris Farley. Spade never seems comfortable with dumbed-down material, but he's present for such comic delights as a foraging expedition through a mountain of dog droppings and a poker game with a quartet of elderly women who -- hilariously enough -- have dirty minds, dirty mouths and flatulence problems. When LOST & FOUND fumbles to connect with viewers through idiocy rather than Spade's intelligence, it flounders.

It also flounders when trying to make Spade a romantic comedy protagonist. Director Jeff Pollack tries hard to convince us that Dylan can be a sensitive guy, but the attempts fall dreadfully flat. You just know that every time Dylan has to make nice-nice with Lila he'd rather be cutting loose with another put-down, which makes Marceau's performance all the more impressive for making it seem remotely plausible that Lila would fall for this guy. LOST & FOUND has its moments when David Spade does what he does best, or when he brings on Jon Lovitz for a cameo as a "dog whisperer." He just wants to be all things to all people, and the writer in him indulges


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