It's a good thing Morgan Freeman and Paz Vega are so photogenic, because they are practically the only actors in "10 Items or Less." With a less camera-friendly duo, this movie, which has no connection to the TBS television series of the same name, could have been a real dud. Even so, it's nothing much. It does have the great virtue of being only 82 minutes long, though.
Freeman plays a movie star very much like himself – identified in the credits only as "Him" – who is researching a new role in a rundown supermarket outside Los Angeles. Scarlet (Vega), a cashier, is unimpressed with him and irritable in her job. When Freeman's ride home doesn't materialize, he realizes his new, unprogrammed cellphone doesn't even list his home phone number, which he has forgotten. So he asks Scarlet to drive him back.
Most of the movie is taken up with Freeman and Scarlet getting to know each other and trading life lessons as they tool around in her car. She introduces him to the joys of shopping at Target and teaches him a song in Spanish. Freeman is chuckly and bemused at his good fortune.
Writer-director Brad Silberling teases us with the notion that these two will end up in the back seat of Scarlet's car rather than in the front. But because Freeman is happily married, he doesn't allow himself to do much more than smile that great big Morgan Freeman smile at her.
It's all supposed to be very sweet and heartfelt – a meeting of soul mates. But the situation is so patently contrived that the conceit never takes hold. For one thing, an actor as seasoned as Freeman obviously would not be wowed by an outing at Target. Are we supposed to think he never has hunted for a bargain, or never was anything less than wealthy?
Silberling posits Freeman and Scarlet, a working-class Hispanic woman, as poles apart. But if there ever was an actor who looked less out of touch with the common touch, it's Freeman. For that matter, if there ever was an actress who looked less like a dingy checkout girl, it's Vega.
Although the part was not written for him, Freeman clearly enjoys traipsing around in this microbudget comedy-drama. He's fun to watch even when he's operating at far less than full throttle. Freeman has a couple of choice moments in the movie where he is spotted as a star by onlookers and tries to be humble about it but can't suppress his glee.
By the end, however, "10 Items Or Less" has the obnoxiousness of a vanity project. Freeman is having a better time than we are. Grade: C+
• Rated R for language.