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Down With Love

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Down With Love

Starring: Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor
Director: Peyton Reed
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 94 Minutes
Release Date: May 2003
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: David Hyde Pierce, Sarah Paulson, Tony Randall, Jeri Ryan, Rachel Dratch, Melissa George

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Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

DOWN WITH LOVE, directed by BRING IT ON's Peyton Reed, is such a scrumptious piece of cinematic fluff that you might be tempted to say that it's sinfully delicious. But, since it is both spoof of and homage to the innocent Doris Day and Rock Hudson comedies, the movie is anything but sinful. About as racy as it ever gets is some side-splitting sexual innuendo and a very modest amount of closed-mouth kissing.

This wonderfully upbeat and charmingly sweet comedy will have you worrying in less than a quarter of an hour. Even though you've had a great time up until then, you will undoubtedly begin to think that this throwback piece will not be able to move beyond its hilarious appearance and wackily old-fashioned dialog. It looks to be a one-joke movie that could become tiresome. The script by Eve Ahlert and Dennis Drake, who also wrote the upcoming LEGALLY BLONDE 2, manages to avoid the trap of sameness and explode into new comedic realms. By the end of the story, you will love and care about its characters, no matter how one-dimensional they might appear.

After proudly proclaiming in type that it is a "CinemaScope Picture," the movie quickly orients us: "The place -- New York City. The time -- now, 1962." Out of a taxi steps Ren‚e Zellweger in a heavy, pink suit and a big white hat. Hats feature prominently in the costume design, which deserves serious Oscar consideration, as do the set decorations. The movie features pastels aplenty. Zellweger plays Barbara Novak, who is in town to meet her editor, Vikki Hiller (Sarah Paulson). Barbara is the author of a shocking new book called "Down with Love." The male suits in the publisher's boardroom don't know what to make of Barbara since her book preaches the joys of meaningless sex rather than love. As she explains, her book encourages "women to enjoy sex as men do, … la carte."

Barbara's nemesis is a playboy named Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor). Something of a Hugh Hefner type, he's described as a "Lady's man, man's man and man about town." He's so suave that he attracts women in droves. Zellweger, with her vulnerable confidence, and McGregor, with his big plastic smile, are both great, but the movie's scene stealer is David Hyde Pierce, who plays Peter MacMannus. Peter is the owner of the male magazine where Catcher is the main writer. Peter is the anti-Catcher, lacking all of the dating skills that Catcher makes appear trivially easy. I hope the Academy members remember Pierce's performance when they think about supporting actor nominations.

Describing Barbara with disdain as, "a man-hating spinster, a New England librarian," Catcher initially wants nothing to do with her. But things change, and Catcher, using an alias, pursues Barbara with abandon so that he can expose her hypocrisy with another of his brilliant strokes of investigative reporting. Along the way, the story keeps twisting and turning. Towards the end, in a long monologue that is shown without cutaways, Barbara tries to explain the whole convoluted tale. If you've seen THE MATRIX RELOADED, you'll immediately see the parallels with this speech and that of the Architect in that film, even if the two movies could not be more different. They are similar, however, in two other ways. They open on the same weekend, and both are great.

DOWN WITH LOVE runs 1:40. It is rated PG-13 for "sexual humor and dialogue" and would be acceptable for kids about 11 and up.

Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes

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