“Mr. Write” could be a likable romantic comedy if it didn’t get its milieu and characters so wrong. Set in the oft-satirized world of American advertising, this is a sort of low-budget “Hudsucker Proxy,” where modest goals and limited resources would not automatically be vices if they were connected to more inspired material. With an abundance of familiar TV faces, including “Mad About You” star Paul Reiser as an aspiring writer and would-be paramour of former “One Life to Live” soaper Jessica Tuck, “Mr. Write” should go quickly to video, where its quiet virtues and Reiser’s recognition factor may make it an OK choice for a stay-at-home date night.
Tale involves aspiring scribe Charlie (Reiser), whose dead-end writing career leads him to try his hand at acting in commercials. Predictably, the world of commercials is a comic mine field, filled with dancing snack foods, a bossy director (Wendie Jo Sperber) and a beautiful ad exec Nicole (Tuck), who first spars with Charlie, leading, naturally, to true love. Stock obstacles are Nicole’s dimwitted outdoorsman b.f. Roger (Doug Davidson) and smarmy junk-food titan father (Martin Mull), and by fade-out romance has triumphed, Charlie has rejuvenated his dead writing career, and Nicole has climbed out of her father’s domineering shadow. Had screenwriter Howard J. Morris, working from his own play, drawn his portraits more sharply and displayed any ear or eye for the commercial production field, “Mr. Write” might have become the fast-paced, frenetic good time that director Charlie Loventhal obviously envisioned.
Loventhal, whose “The First Time” and “My Demon Lover” showed a promising comic talent, has a sure hand with his performers, and some of this film’s nicest moments occur in the margins. such as a security guard reading the Economist, or a bimbo who’s a fan of Pirandello. What’s missing are characters capable of engaging a bigscreen audience. As hard as Reiser and Tuck try to infuse the film with sincerity and emotion, their one-dimensional, cliched roles undo their work. Add supporting performers to the list of untapped assets — notable “if-onlys” being comic Tom Wilson, as Charlie’s scheming lawyer buddy, and soap star Davidson, as Nicole’s eco-fanatic beau. The usually reliable Mull also has little to do, and David Letterman foil Calvert De Forest turns in a pointless one-joke performance.
Aside from a few occasional flashes of wit, and Reiser’s warm, good-natured lead turn, pic doesn’t distinguish itself from the regular TV programming that its leads normally call home.