A Little Bit of Heaven

zero stars

Directed by Nicole Kassell. With Kate Hudson, Gael Garcia Bernal, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Whoopi Goldberg. Distributed by Millennium Entertainment. 1 hr. 46 PG-13 (sex, profanity, adult themes). Playing at: AMC Loews Cherry Hill.

It would be instructive, albeit torturous, to mount a double bill of A Little Bit of Heaven, the new cancer melodrama starring the perpetually bubbly Kate Hudson, and 50/50, last year's Joseph Gordon-Levitt cancer melodrama.

The latter, about a radio journalist diagnosed with a rare malignancy, managed to be funny, flip, poignant and even a little profound.

The problems with A Little Bit of Heaven start from the get-go, with a crane shot of a lovely New Orleans Victorian where the lovely Marley (Hudson) has come to visit her lovely best friend (Rosemarie DeWitt).

But by the time Marley - "the youngest and hottest vice president in advertising" - is told she has late-stage colon cancer, that innocuous opening seems almost forgivable. Now Marley has fallen in love with her doctor, played with a lost look and a lab coat by Gael Garcia Bernal. And he's fallen for her jokes about rectal thermometers. This is not only inadvisible, it's unethical.

As far as director Nicole Kassell and writer Gren Wells are concerned, the C in Big C must stand for cute. The film reaches into the pits of moviegoing hell when it finds Marley on a celestial white couch, ringed in billowing white curtains, communing with God. And God is embodied by Whoopi Goldberg. - Steven Rea