½*/**** Image B-
starring Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Christine Taylor, Larry Drake
screenplay by Marc Sedaka and Steven Bloom
directed by Jason Bloom
by Bill Chambers A cult film without a cult, Overnight Delivery has gained a reputation, if not a following, for being the uncredited inspiration behind slippery documentarian Todd Phillips's official fiction debut, Road Trip. And, of course, it stars the Reese Witherspoon who had not yet been body-snatched by the species that also appropriated Ashley Judd, although it's worth noting that Overnight Delivery is a harbinger of Sweet Home Alabamas to come, with Witherspoon a conduit for one meet-cute cliché after another. I'll admit that she's adorable in the picture, but her character, a college student whose bad taste in men is made a virtue by the workhorse plot, is a cipher steadily depleting the goodwill she shamelessly earns in her introduction as a stripper in a Catholic school uniform named Ivy Von Trapp. In true Hollywood fashion, Ivy's striptease is cut short before her Pointer Sisters get to do the Neutron dance--she's too busy squatting for the patrons stuffing bills into her skirt.
Itself a rip-off of 'It Happened One Night 2.0' The Sure Thing, Overnight Delivery fails, like every Paul Rudd movie does, to deliver in Rudd the next John Cusack. (If anything, he was shrewdly cast as a makeover project in Neil LaBute's The Shape of Things.) There's a kink in Rudd's internal metronome that seems to physically prevent him from eliciting laughter, a problem for a primarily comic actor though one de-emphasized with the aid of a laugh-track, as Rudd on "Friends" will attest. Bearing the Cusackian name of Wyatt Trips, Rudd stars in Overnight Delivery as a whipped undergraduate drowning his sorrows at a topless bar one evening upon learning of his high-school sweetheart Kimberly's (Christine Taylor) infidelity. When one of his drinking companions berates Ivy for no good reason, Wyatt sticks up for her, and in actions edited blurrily so we won't ask questions, Ivy is fired and she and "Trips" are escorted off the premises. (The friend, curiously, is not, despite committing the cardinal sin of touching the talent.) Ivy helps Trips compose a too-good-for-this-movie hate letter to his girlfriend and poses for an über-chaste nude Polaroid with him, after which she passive-aggressively persuades him to ship them...drumroll...overnight delivery to Kimberly's campus in Memphis, a couple of states away.
The following day, Trips learns of his girlfriend's innocence and wants the shipment recalled; except for company's sake, there is no reason to ask Ivy to assist him in the envelope's retrieval, but of course he does, and when she refuses to tag along, he reminds her of a certain incriminating photograph inside, adding with menace that Kimberly has Internet access. Never mind that until hours before, Ivy was a professional exhibitionist. Never mind the brutal unlikelihood of a woman getting back at her ex-boyfriend by posting a picture of him nuzzling a naked Reese Witherspoon on the web (yeah, that'll show him). Disregarding a few too many things (including--SPOILER--Trips's ultimate authorization of the package, 'cause he's fallen in love with Ivy and 'cause it turns out his old flame really was a tramp; if he truly cares about Ivy, why doesn't he first remove the offending photo that united them on this odyssey?), Ivy grabs her sweater. While it's probably not immediately obvious that co-screenwriter Steve Bloom went on to write the Christmas creepshow Jack Frost (the one not intended as such that stars Michael Keaton), it makes perfect sense, doesn't it?
There's a temptation to give Overnight Delivery a pass not because there's anything redeeming about it, but to store up venom for bigger fish. But the truth of the matter is, now that the film is coming to DVD, its credentials--Reese Witherspoon, Phoebe's fiancé from "Friends", Road Trip's obligation to it--are going to stir up an uncommon amount of interest for a catalogue title. When the picture is not offensively bad, it's simply offensive, and there are moments that fall ambivalently between the two categories, such as the recitation of an essay arguing Herman Melville's plagiarism of Jaws--something so unfunny I considered pressing charges. One of those PG-13 affairs that shows what a fiasco the MPAA has become (spitting phlegm into condoms, blowing up a courier truck full of packages for sport, and the near-constant defaming of women are things you can expect from Overnight Delivery, yet because nobody dons a birthday suit or says "fuck," the film received the same ratings classification as Whale Rider), Overnight Delivery arrives on disc a day late and a dollar short.
New Line Home Video presents Overnight Delivery in cohabiting 1.91:1 anamorphic widescreen and fullscreen transfers. Both versions look shoddily composed, though literal navel-gazers will want to stick with the latter due to the former's heavy matting. Overall image quality does not live up to the impossible standards the studio has set for themselves--if this were, say, a Columbia TriStar release, the murky detail, undersaturated colours, and shimmer artifacts wouldn't have fazed me in the slightest. Still, it's a completely serviceable effort, and far be it from me to encourage a remaster of this dunghill. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is not much different from the alternate Dolby Surround track, as both rely on the forward soundstage and feature fits of joint-jumpin' bass. Trailers for How to Deal, Sugar and Spice, and Pleasantville plus ROM-based weblinks round out the platter. Glad to see New Line ditch the snapper case for good. Originally published: January 11, 2004.