Last Holiday

Opens Fri., Jan. 13, at Meridian and others

After Queen Latifah's incessant Wal-Mart commercials, this movie actually represents several career steps backward. In a remake of the 1950 Alec Guinness weepie, Georgia (Latifah) is, to quote Journey, just a small-town girl living in a lonely world. She's a shy cookware salesperson at a Wal-Mart-esque store, but she dreams of becoming a master chef and marrying the dude (LL Cool J) who works in the home appliances department.

Georgia seems content with her life of unrealized fantasies until she bumps her head on a display cabinet, gets a CAT scan of her brain, and is diagnosed as having three weeks to live. Naturally, she snaps out of her rut and embarks on a journey to the Czech Republic. (That it's cheaper to film there than, say, France surely had nothing to do with the plotting.)

At the Grandhotel Pupp, Georgia's newly outgoing personality wins her many friends, including a creepy-looking French chef (GĂ©rard Depardieu) and a vacationing politician from New Orleans (Giancarlo Esposito). But, make no mistake, her annoyingly optimistic attitude earns her an enemy, too: a retail mogul (Timothy Hutton) who thinks she's out to sabotage his business plans.

Georgia's rather hokey journey of self-discovery also involves snowboarding down a black-diamond mountain and making the cover of a ski magazine; ordering a seven-course dinner just for herself; base jumping off a cliff; and treating herself to an array of body treatments at the resort's spa. You could call it retail-adrenaline therapy. Yet there's no escaping the melodrama, which reaches a nadir with Georgia's asinine conversation with herself in a mirror.

Despite such ridiculously horrid moments, Last Holiday does have one point to strongly recommend: Other viewers, like me, may be inspired to book their next vacation to visit some of the absolutely gorgeous Czech Republic landscapes. (PG-13)

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