The trials and travails of a third date are explored in this modern, glossy romantic comedy. Two thirtysomethings, Martin Short's David and Annette O'Toole's Kathy, find themselves unable to be honest and up-front with each other during a romantic evening together, which sets the pair up for a series of outrageous gaffes and threatens to erupt into a full-scale disaster as the two try to counter lingering fears and self-doubts. Arriving on the heels of Short's blockbuster hit Innerspace, and marking O'Toole's first big-screen appearance since 1983's awful Superman III, Cross My Heart received little adulation or notice upon arrival in cinemas circa November 1987 but has since garnered a deserved reputation among a handful of viewers as one of the warmest and most charming and intelligent date movies of the late '80s. With its lilting, rhapsodic saxophone score, period decor and clothes, and a cast featuring neat supporting comic turns by two key players of late '80s prime-time sitcoms (Paul Reiser of My Two Dads and Joanna Kerns of Growing Pains), the film immediately makes one nostalgic for the era that produced it. Yet a universally relatable central dilemma and sparkling, occasionally hilarious dialogue and set pieces help the film transcend period -- such as the moment when Short and O'Toole accidentally destroy Reiser's multi-thousand-dollar model airplanes, and the scene in which the pair search for "lost underwear" in Reiser's yard, but soon find themselves held at gunpoint by a suspicious neighbor. The picture also incorporates a funny in-joke referencing O'Toole's aforementioned appearance as Lana Lang in the Superman film.
On a broader level, director and co-writer Armyan Bernstein fully mines the comic potential of Short and O'Toole, two underrated American actors with a significant degree of romantic chemistry between them. Bernstein also tries something stylistically unusual and interesting by limiting the majority of the film to a single location -- the "borrowed apartment" where Short takes O'Toole after a less-than-perfect evening out, making constant (and not completely irreciprocal) attempts to coax her into bed. The director should be lauded for his refusal to cut or fade out during an extended love scene between the two leads -- he keeps everything onscreen, which perfectly sets the film up for the fleeting feelings of emotional betrayal and minor crisis of conscience between the Short and O'Toole characters, in the picture's final act. These choices do not quite rescue Cross My Heart from the central criticism it received from some American reviewers -- that Short's final deceits are a bit severe for the material that precedes it; indeed, the film is slightly flawed for that reason. And it will certainly never be mistaken for realism -- the scenes and dialogue are too clever, the ending too polished, and the film too formulaic for that -- but these calculations are also what lend the film its subtle charm. And, as a "bad date" movie, it earns its status as a paragon of that subgenre via sheer inventiveness and bravura, but does so with a gentle and easy touch.