Actors don’t mesh in odd indie film

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, September 20, 2007 1:34pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

There are surely odder acting couples around, but for the moment the “Dedication” matchup between Billy Crudup and Mandy Moore will do. The ultra-serious thespian Crudup and teen idol singer Moore would appear to be on different planets, and at times in “Dedication” that’s where they are.

This unsatisfactory movie looks into the world of children’s book authorship — and none too convincingly. After writer Crudup and illustrator Tom Wilkinson find success with the first “Marty the Beaver” book, Crudup must hunker down and prepare a contractually obligated second volume without his collaborator.

Book publisher Bob Balaban suggests the untried Moore. Maybe they could even go off to an East Hampton beach house to find inspiration.

We should back up at this point and say that Crudup’s character is a deeply neurotic misanthrope, a man who can’t help blurting out cynical truths. He’s weirdly miscast as a children’s author, especially when book signings are just another opportunity to inform kids that Santa Claus is a lie.

This guy isn’t an especially attractive movie protagonist, but he certainly gives Crudup a chance to gallop around in his corral. The actor has a strong sense of truthfulness in his performances, and no need to ingratiate himself with the viewer.

Mandy Moore’s warmth makes for a more appealing character, although director Justin Theroux (a regular in David Lynch movies) and screenwriter David Bromberg don’t give her a lot to play with. Her scenes with a crazy mother (Dianne Wiest) are fun, however.

Many low-budget independent films gain strength from their modest roots; “Dedication” seems a little cramped by its budget. Or maybe it’s just the sense that this story is a closed system, answering only to its own navel-gazing.

Mandy Moore and Billy Crudup star in “Dedication.”

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