(1999)1.5Brian J. DillardOn their previous collaboration -- the first few episodes of the hip, late-'90s BBC drama This Life -- writer Amy Jenkins and director Sam Miller managed to inject quick wit, warts-and-all realism, and low-key charm into the twentysomething soap opera formula popularized on every show from MTV's The Real World to Melrose Place and Friends. Unfortunately, the duo's first feature-film team-up bypasses This Life's tight plots, involving characters and razor-sharp dialogue. The result is a cursory, formless exercise in hollow urban chic. Elephant Juice's biggest problem is its non-linear editing, which tries to establish emotional resonance but succeeds only in confusing an already meandering plot. A close second and third are the casting and the characterizations. It's hard to know whether Kimberly Williams (Father of the Bride) stinks here because she's a bad actress or simply because her tantric sex-loving, single-mom character is so poorly sketched out and saddled with such utterly inane dialogue. By Elephant Juice's 1999 release date, cappuccino humor was about as au courant as Seattle grunge, but that's only the most egregious example of the script's many deeply unfunny jokes. The dramatic denouements aren't any more effective. Jenkins and Miller haven't developed the cinematic talent for getting us quickly and completely involved in their ensemble of characters. Therefore, when we find out, for example, that Mr. X and Ms. Y have been carrying on a torrid affair behind their friends' backs, it's like overhearing gossip about people we barely know and don't really like. It would be nice if at least Daniela Nardini, whose acid-tongued Anna was the emotional center of This Life, redeemed her scant screen time with an indelible performance; instead, her Daphne is just an over-the-top caricature of Anna, with all of the venom but none of the vulnerability. A late-'90s descendent of St. Elmo's Fire, Elephant Juice is a screaming endorsement for a permanent ban on coming-of-age dramas that mistake glibness for insight.