Dir: Howard Deutch. US. 2004. 99mins.

When Bruce Willis makes his entrance in headscarf, frilly apron and bunny slippers you can somehow tell that The Whole Ten Yards is going to be a less black and much broader comedy than its fairly amusing predecessor, The Whole Nine Yards. The sequel doesn't get much more sophisticated as it goes on and the returning stars - besides Willis, Matthew Perry, Amanda Peet, Kevin Pollak and Natasha Henstridge are all back from the 2000 original - end up expending a lot of energy to produce only a few real laughs in this laboured follow-up to the highest grossing release to date from US production and sales outfit Franchise Pictures.

US audiences have already given the sequel a lukewarm reception, putting down just $6.7m (from 2,654 screens) to see the Warner-distributed film over its opening weekend (the original opened with $13.7m and went on to gross $57.3m domestically). International results could be better (the original did $61m outside the US), especially in territories where slapstick and sex farces are popular. The sequel might also get a boost in international markets - where it mostly comes out during the summer, through Franchise's deals with independent distributors - from publicity surrounding the last episode of Perry's sitcom smash Friends.

George Gallo (Midnight Run) takes over writing duties from the original's Mitchell Kapner (though Kapner gets story and character credits here) and his script picks up a few years after the original story ended. Willis' ultra cool hit man Jimmy The Tulip is now a househusband living in Mexico with his wannabe hit woman wife Jill (Peet). Perry's nervy dentist Oz (Jill's former boss), meanwhile, has settled down in LA with Jimmy's ex-wife Cynthia (Henstridge). The trouble starts when Pollak's mob boss Lazlo Gogolak, father to the first film's villain/victim Yanni Gogolak (also Pollak), gets out of prison and tries to get to Jimmy through Oz.

As directed by Jonathan Lynn, the first film quite skilfully teased romance and comedy out of its mob murder plot. With Howard Deutch (Grumpier Old Men) directing, the sequel uses its plot mostly to bring the two couples together and then becomes a pretty crude comedy of errors: Jimmy is having trouble getting Jill pregnant, so Jill tries to induce some jealousy by coming on to Oz, who suspects that Cynthia might be up to something with Jimmy. The 'erectile dysfunction' gags produce the odd giggle but they're mixed in with some less classy stuff about farting grandmas and the like.

The slapstick (much of it, apparently, devised by Perry) is energetic but often gratuitous - a number of scenes are extended but not improved by pratfalls that feel like little more than desperate attempts to increase the laugh quotient.

As he has shown for the past decade on TV, Perry can be a very funny physical as well as verbal comic actor, but here he's allowed to go a bit too far with the double-takes and confused mugging. Willis comes across like a nothing-to-prove star having a lark with some former cast mates.

Pollak is the best thing about the whole enterprise. Heavily disguised with facial prosthetics and Lew Wasserman specs, he brings a nutty charm to his role, even if he does rely on a funny foreign accent to get many of his laughs.

Prod cos: Franchise Pictures, Cheyenne Enterprises, Zweite Academy Film
Dist (US, UK, Fr):
Warner Bros Pictures
Intl sales:
Franchise Pictures
Exec prods:
Andrew Stevens, Tracee Stanley, David Bergstein
Elie Samaha, Arnold Rifkin, David Willis, Allan Kaufman
George Gallo
Neil Roach
Seth Flaum
Prod des:
Virginia Randolph-Weaver
John Debny
Main cast:
Bruce Willis, Matthew Perry, Amanda Peet, Kevin Pollak, Natasha Henstridge