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LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD 'ADDICTED TO LOVE,' MORE MEAN THAN FUNNY

those movies that could make a laugh erupt from deep in your gut, then leave you with a warm, satisfied feeling?

The Hepburn/Tracy kind of comedy. Or even Cary Grant when he had a great script to work with.

Films that have the nerve to call themselves comedies these days get their laughs through cheap tricks -- raw language, ridiculous plots, goofy characters.

Two of these videos, unfortunately, are prime examples of modern comedy. Sure, they offer plenty of laughs, but the laughs are so shallow they trail off into nothingness. No eruption from the gut. No satisfied feelings.

When these films finally end, you have a hard time remembering any of the jokes. Or even if you laughed at all.

If you're looking for laughs in "Addicted to Love," you'll have to cut through all the mean-spiritedness to find them. And they still won't be that funny.

We're talking here about a plot where two spurned lovers are out for revenge against their ex-lovers. The ex-lovers are now a couple.

Complicated? It's the only part of this film that makes you think, even if just for a minute.

Matthew Broderick plays an astronomer who is spurned by Kelly Preston when she bolts out of their small town for big, bad New York City.

She goes from his devoted lenses (he points a telescope at her when she's at work) to the arms of a romantic French chef (played wonderfully by Tcheky Karyo).

Enter Meg Ryan, who was spurned by the French chef.

Together, Broderick and Ryan set up spy headquarters in a cockroach-infested abandoned apartment across from where the new lovers are living blissfully together.

Ryan, in combat clothes and her short, shaggy blond hairdo, and Broderick, with his whiny voice and perpetual 5 o'clock shadow (or is that supposed to be a beard?), aren't content with just watching and listening to their exes. Oh, no. They must also destroy the relationship.

They hatch a plot to make it look like the French chef is cheating on his new love. They plant cockroaches in his restaurant on the very night the New York Times' restaurant critic has come to review the haughty place.

Sure enough, the couple breaks up.

Just as predictably, Broderick and Ryan fall in love and aren't so interested in their former partners anymore.

This film is funny if you think stalking and ruining other people's lives is the stuff of jokes.

Actually, it could have been a much better comedy if you could work up some warmth for Broderick and Ryan. But as characters they are pretty thinly drawn, and not too likable.

"Trial and Error," with Jeff Daniels and Michael Richards ("Seinfeld's" Kramer), should have been a TV movie of the week. It has TV humor written all over it.

What saves this film from oblivion is Daniels' fine acting job as a corporate lawyer who is engaged to the daughter of the head of the firm. Just days before the wedding, Daniels is shipped out to a one-stoplight Nevada town to take care of a family legal matter -- some distant relative has been charged with fraud.

After much silliness that includes too much drinking and a transplanted bachelor party, Daniels is too hung over to go to court, and Richards subs for him.

For the most part, Richards doesn't stray far from Kramer in this role, and what works for him on "Seinfeld" works for him here, too.

But it's all so unbelievable that the laughs are pretty strained. The trial is a total circus as Kramer tries to get the guy off for selling pennies as historical mementos. Daniels, sure his career has been ruined, has second thoughts on marrying his boss' daughter (Charlize Theron is so materialistic and shallow, she would put "Clueless' " Alicia Silverstone to shame), and he just happens to meet his soul mate -- a local waitress.

Some of the laughs are at the expense of the justice system. The guy gets off with a plea deal, but not before the trial system is totally ridiculed. The judge looks stupid. The prosecutor is no match for Richards, and he gets through it all by reinventing the rules.

Not unlike a "Seinfeld" episode.

The only thing this movie has going for it is watching Jeff Daniels try to keep his dignity in such a huge mess.

"The Van" is far and above the best of the lot here. There are some genuinely funny moments, but the problem with this film is the constant use of the F-word. So constant, in fact, it gets to be very, very tiresome.

"The Van" is a sequel to Alan Parker's "The Commitments," and the last part of "The Barrytown Trilogy." ("The Snapper" was the second installment.) All three original books were written by Roddy Doyle, who co-produced "The Van."

Colm Meaney and DonalO'Kelly are out of work and almost out of self-esteem. There's not much hope in Barrytown, their North Dublin town, that they will find work and become the breadwinners their families expect them to be.

So when Bimbo (O'Kelly) buys a broken-down van and dreams of turning it into a fish-and-chips van, Larry (Meaney) jumps on the proverbial bandwagon.

They call the business Bimbo's Burgers, and though they know absolutely nothing about cooking or the demands of a traveling fast food truck, they set out with a dream of making themselves into something important again. And earning some money.

These two have been friends for many years, and as the business becomes successful, their friendship is strained. Larry can't square the fact that Bimbo is his boss and that he doesn't have an equal say in their future.

What emerges is a wonderful, warm and funny portrait of two men -- one bombastic and self-centered, the other focused and determined -- who clash over just about everything.

Check out the wonderful scenes where they learn to serve, by the seat of their pants, the hungry crowds that rock the van. The scenes at their respective kitchen tables where they are the objects of abuse from their own families. And the wonderful moments when all the characters, in fact the whole nation of Ireland, is swept up in soccer fever.

If you can get beyond the thick Irish accents, and the incessant use of that pesky F-word, "The Van" comes closest to what movie comedy is meant to be.

THE VAN 1996, R, 100 minutes, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment (to be released Tuesday)
ADDICTED TO LOVE 1996, R, 99 minutes, Warner Home Video (to be released Oct. 28)
TRIAL AND ERROR 1997, PG-13, 98 minutes, New Line Home Video (to be released Nov. 18)

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