"Brace yourself for Melvin."
Winner of two Academy Awards (Helen Hunt and Jack Nicholson - both for Best Actor/Actress) and also nominated for five more awards, this movie was one of the surprise hits of 1997. Not only was this film well cast from top to bottom, with Hunt and Nicholson leading the way, but it was definitely well-written.
James L. Brooks, probably more famous nowadays for his lifetime of work on the television blockbuster cartoon, The Simpsons, is the main person responsible for this movie. However, James L. Brooks has had a distinguished career in both television and film. From the television side of things, beyond The Simpsons, Brooks has been a writer for such hits as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spin-off Rhoda, not to mention an extended run behind Taxi. As for the big screen, Brooks is best known for Terms of Endearment and Broadcast News.
Casting Nicholson as a neurotic, rude, paranoid, crazy man wasn't much of a stretch. In fact, most of Nicholson's current roles now play on his Melvin character from this film - which probably is not a real stretch from his personality in real life, hence its so easy for him to play this type of character. Helen Hunt was the surprise of this film, but deserved her Oscar due to the ability to play alongside Nicholson throughout this film and having the uncanny ability to steal some scenes from the great actor as well.
The other cast members really make this movie work, from Greg Kinnear, Cuba Gooding Jr., and even a rare live appearance of Simpsons' alumnus Yeardley Smith, the voice of Lisa Simpson, who coincidentally is playing a character named Jackie Simpson. The real show-stopper was the pet dog, Vardell. This dog was the real driving force behind the friendship of the Kinnear and Nicholson characters, but was definitely well cast and well trained.
Anyhow, this movie is a treat for all you Jack Nicholson fans out there, however, it is the start of many movies similar to this in his resume. I'd like to see Jack begin to branch back into playing an evil villain similar to what he accomplished in The Departed or his earlier 90's roles such as in A Few Good Men. However, because this type-cast character is so successful and comedic at the same time, I doubt we'll ever be rid of this version of Jack anytime soon.