"Play It Again,
Jannie: A Sequel"
Written by Brian O'Neill
Based on a script by Jannie Blackwell
Cast: Brian O'Neill stars, with City Council members in supporting roles
Running time: Too damn long
Parents' guide: NR (nothing redeeming)
Showing at: City Council chambers, 4th floor, City Hall
BRIAN O'Neill plays the dashing leading man, a city councilman who for years has clamored for more tax breaks to bring jobs into the city and has campaigned to streamline the cumbersome city bureaucracy to better accommodate business.
The movie begins as O'Neill, who plays himself, is told that one of the leading cancer centers in the nation, which sits in his Council district, wants to invest a billion dollars to expand.
You'd think this would be a typical Hollywood feel-good movie: Heal patients, cure cancer, create 1,500 jobs in a revenue-hungry city. What could possibly go wrong?
But you quickly remember that the movie is set in Philadelphia, where no good project goes unpunished.
The movie takes some strange twists as it's revealed that the Fox Chase Cancer center expansion site sits on 19.4 acres of the 9,200-acre Fairmount Park. Regular movie-viewers start to squirm. They know that when Fairmount Park is involved, the movie could drag on and on.
And so it does. Hearings are held, lawyers are retained, PR folks hired and community meetings are held where people yell,scream and carry on as if the proposed expansion will create cancer, kill patients, eliminate jobs and eradicate the park.
Until now, the lanky O'Neill plays the statesman, working behind the scenes to accommodate neighbors' concerns about traffic, parking and quality of life. It seems that a meeting of the minds might prevail between Fox Chase, the city, the park and the community. Then the soundtrack plays Springsteen's "On the Streets of Philadelphia," foreshadowing danger just like the theme in "Jaws" portended doom.
Sure enough, the movie turns dark. The crucial moment comes when O'Neill is sitting in his office watching a DVD of the original movie, starring Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. You may recall the long-playing movie that won her a Philadelphia Bowl for best legislative chutzpah.
She decided to stymie the long overdue Youth Study Center project in her district. Just like O'Neill, she was cooperative in at first but then stonewalled the project and refused to introduce the enabling legislation until she finally got what she wanted: New buildings for her district at a hefty price tag of $10 million.
"No one stopped her," O'Neill says to a staffer. "It's amazing, she thwarted the entire City Council and the administration by refusing to act until they met her demands," O'Neill exclaims.
"This councilmatic prerogative stuff is like steroids. It can make me more powerful than the mayor and all those puny councilpeople who will sit around doing nothing," he boasts.
In the next scene, a staffer is injecting the councilmatic steroid into O'Neill's buttocks. "I need another shot!" O'Neill cries. "Remember, I'm a Republican. In fact, make it two. I'm a Philadelphia Republican."
Now standing erect, O'Neill boasts, "If they think Roger Clemons threw some wicked heat after he took steroids, wait till they see the curveball I'm going to throw." Sure enough, he fools everyone by refusing to introduce legislation that would move the job-creating, cancer-curing, patient-healing project forward.
He blames it on the cancer center - they disown responsibility. There's talk that he wants Fox Chase to give millions to a community group he favors. (Caution to viewers, it's hard to make out a lot of the words since much of the dialogue takes place behind closed doors.)
The movie races to a suspenseful climax. If the bill isn't introduced today, the process has to start all over again in January.
I won't ruin the ending for you. I won't tell you whether O'Neill regains his statesmanship or if any of the supporting cast decide to take on the steroid-addled councilman and introduce the legislation themselves - and I won't tell you whether Fox Chase decides enough is enough and chooses to move to a more hospitable area
I'll let you find out by reading tomorrow's Daily News.
But, in the meantime, I will tell you that Philadelphia needs more jobs, cancer patients need more help and cancer needs to be cured. And this city needs to riditself of this councilmatic steroid. It's not good for our health. *