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R: ARCHIVE, S: MOVIES, D: 11/02/2000,

Lucky Numbers

Don't let the words "Directed by Nora Ephron" scare you away. The queen of gooey romantic comedies hasn't soft-pedaled the grabby shenanigans of John Travolta and Lisa Kudrow in Adam Resnick's nicely nasty, often hilarious screenplay. Resnick learned the art of comic misanthropy from the best, serving time as a writer for David Letterman, Chris Elliott, and Garry Shandling. Yet when it comes to liars, double-talkers, and scam artists, Hollywood seems to have nothing on Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Resnick's home town. TV weatherman Russ Richards (Travolta) is Harrisburg royalty, but his cheery smile barely hides a desperate man in major debt. Kudrow's Crystal Latroy is his perfect duplicitous foil: the station's Lotto girl, she giggles and jiggles her way through the thankless nightly stint, hungry to get her manicured paws on a piece of the loot. Their scheme to cheat the state lottery spins into Elmore Leonard territory when a strip-club owner, an angry bookie, and the world's laziest cop enter the picture.

Travolta is suitably big and foolish, and Michael Moore (Roger & Me) makes a surprising, funny appearance as Crystal's horny cousin, who's been imported from the boonies to cash the winning ticket. Yet it's Kudrow who steals the screen. The Opposite of Sex showed off the actress's singular gift for playing loopy and brittle at once. Here she's ruthless, too -- a comic cousin to Annette Bening in The Grifters.

-- Scott Heller