TV personality Russ Richards (Travolta) is such a splashy big fish in his small town that he has a personal booth and his own parking space at the local Denny's. But when a rash of unseasonably warm weather puts the kibitz on his snowmobile dealership the living-beyond-his-means weatherman takes the advice of his strip-club owner pal (Tim Roth) and plots to tamper with the ping-pong balls that his girlfriend sifts as mistress of the lottery.
After years of perfecting his irony Travolta is back to the broad comedy of Vinnie Barbarino and this time he's top of the class. Travolta's turn of cheesy phrase all-out hokeyness and lily-livered fatuousness make him a delightfully bumbling nitwit. His character's desire is to become a game-show host and as we watch him fixate on a videotape of his hero Bob Eubanks this good-hearted boob captures our heart. Champion "Friends" transcender Kudrow tickles us silly as a gutter-mouthed tough cookie masquerading as an alluring sweetheart with comically idiotic Vanna White gestures.
Known for heartwarming feel-good romances like "Sleepless in Seattle" and "You've Got Mail " Nora Ephron ventures into edgier darker and quirkier terrain here and hits the jackpot without a trace of Tom Hanks. Even though this story is loosely based on real events in Pennsylvania in 1980 the comedy that arises from bumbling amateurs and their botched crimes is a tried-and-true formula. Ephron's challenge is making it funny again and she succeeds with a cast of off-kilter performances that swerve from the usual stereotypes whilst providing likable good guys and likable bad guys.