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Down With Love
2003 - PG-13 - 100 Mins.
Director: Peyton Reed
Producer: Bruce Cohen, Dan Jinks
Written By: Eve Ahlert, Dennis Drake
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Renee Zellweger, Sarah Paulson, Rachel Dratch, David Hyde Pierce
Review by: Greg Ursic
Initially serving as a refreshing escape for the movie going public with simple tastes, the romantic comedy has recently accumulated a notoriously poor record as a genre. Now serving as showcases for the latest “fresh faces” or as a leaping off point for actors trying to make the transition from the small screen (see the cast of “Friends’), they often suffer from a distinct lack of both romance and comedy. Add bad scripts and limited budgets, and you’re often left with a tax write off that may break even after the video release.

Barbara Novak becomes a heroine for women everywhere when her feminist manifesto “Down With Love” becomes a runaway best seller. With women seeking equality both in the bedroom and the workplace, men are left stunned, none more so than Catcher Block, investigative reporter extraordinaire, ladies’ man, man’s man, and man about town. When the fairer sex suddenly have no time for his antics Catcher is determined to bring their idol back down to earth by whatever means necessary.

Renee Zellweger in all her chipmunk cheeked glory is fun to watch as the go-getting and beguiling Barbara, exuding a bouncy charm reminiscent of Goldie Hawn in her “Laugh-In” days. It’s obvious that Zellweger had a great time with both the character and the outfits. Ewan MacGregor oozes charm (among other things) as the James Bondesque Catcher, personifying all that is supposed to be manliness – mainly suave sophistication, daring and being a lothario. David Hyde Pearce essentially recreates his Nyles persona from “Frasier” for Peter, the well born effeminate Catcher wannabe whose luck with the ladies, or more appropriately lack thereof, borders on tragic. Tony Randall, a 1960’s camp staple has a cameo (his first role in over two decades) as Barbara’s authoritative boss.

From the opening animated sequence (the “Cinemasope” logo is also a cute touch), it is obvious that “Down With Love” is attempting to capture the spirit of the 1960’s. Indeed the entire goal of the producers was to do a remake the Doris Day/Rock Hudson comedies that was true to the originals in every aspect, but with a 21st century spin.

Visually the film looks great, employing tacky fake New York skylines, garishly decorated and gimmick ridden apartments, a multitude of period costumes, the use of split screen phone conversations, etc. The bouncy energetic score helps to faithfully recapture the musical feel of the era, while the sound editors accurately the manic hustle and bustle of the period. The writers have the added advantage of being able to expand upon the none too subtle sexual entendres and undertones to a degree that never would have flown with censors in the 1960’s (an “Austin Powers” style split screen comes to mind). The humor is simple, accessible and refreshing. Ultimately, however, a copy can only be as good as the original.

While the Day/Hudson films were originally referred to as sophisticated sex comedies, they were in reality, fluffy escapist films. Ultimately “Down With Love” is a victim of being too successful in its recreation, resulting in an amusing lightweight film that will have limited appeal.
Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

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