Madonna's Child
The Next Best Thing
Review by Ross Anthony

The Next Best Thing In your past, were you ever an international pop icon? Or maybe you accidentally made love with your best gay friend in a drunken stupor and woke up pregnant? If so, then you can relate to "The Next Best Thing."

Or maybe you've gone to a multi-screen theater to see a movie, but after a half-hour of viewing discomfort you snuck into another film to try your luck at that show? "The Next Best Thing" recreates the experience and you don't even have to get out of your seat. Because it is really two films - count 'em - two films in one. Not interwoven, but one right after the other. A whimsically racy comedy starring Madonna and then a child custody drama starring Rupert Everett.

Remember "My Best Friends Wedding" with Julie Roberts? Well, you may recall that her best friend is a gay man with whom she vents her messy relationship woes via cell phone. In an absolutely sparkling scene at the end of that film, the gay friend comes to her rescue with style, comfort, and the perfectly devilish hint of romance. "Next Best Thing" sets out to snatch that moment while changing the sensual hint into a rude reality. In both cases the gay friend is played by Everett; I've been told Madonna's role was first offered to Roberts. And of course, there are the similar sounding titles.

But while Everett was marvelous in "Wedding." He can't save a picture ironically entitled "The Next Best Thing." Every gay stereotype is utilized, along with one-liners that fall winceably short building a cheap imitation of "Wedding's" charm. Fortunately, somebody must have realized that it just wasn't working because a third of the way through the film, they start a new film.

Basically, Madonna and Everett accidentally conceive a child. They decide to raise the boy as their mother and father under the same roof, but not in the same bed. Everett continues to date, but Madonna doesn't - until she meets Benjamin Bratt who delivers a strong performance as the perfect marriage prospect. Everett's reaction is uncharacteristically selfish, and Madonna's response to that is even more out of character.

Feeling betrayed by both leads' motivations, the rather lame excuse for a climax is made lamer. However, the premises established are indeed interesting. The film could have been improved by 1) dropping the entire comedy preface, 2) drawing just a bit more out of Everett's relationship with his own father, 3) more diplomatic dialogue between he and Madonna prior to the legal battle. Also the interactions between Ben and Rupert grace this seldom graced film - perhaps more could have been done there. An earlier funeral scene was nearly very special - needing only a little tweaking to pull it from the theatric.

Madonna's acting performance is not more or less than average.

  • The Next Best Thing. Copyright © 2000. Rated PG-13.
  • Starring Rupert Everett, Madonna, Benjamin Bratt, Malcolm Stumpf.
  • Directed by John Schlesinger.
  • Written by Thomas Ropelewski.
  • Produced by Tom Resenberg, Leslie Dixon and Linne Radmin at Lakeshore/Paramount.


Copyright © 2000. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:02:10 PDT