Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor star in an old school romantic comedy that succeeds on some levels and fails on others. Down with Love is a moderately entertaining but ultimately flat comedy that tries so hard to be cheesy that it loses any real emotional appeal.
Zellweger stars as Barbara Novak, a feminist in the 1960's whose book (guess what the title is) becomes immensely successful to the point where women are refusing to do anything for their male husbands/boyfriends/bosses. Enter Catcher Block (McGregor), a womanizing journalist who is known for his short relationships, who sets out to make Barbara fall in love and ruin her credibility. Of course, they ultimately fall in love, but will they be able to overcome the lies that got them to that point? (It is a romantic comedy, so you can pretty much guess the answer to that question). David Hyde Pierce also has a decent size role.
Down with Love is pretty much a black-and-white case when it comes to what is good and what is bad. The movie, directed by Peyton Reed (Bring It On), is meant to be a nostalgic throwback to the romance comedies of old, and in many ways, it is. The colorful sets, goofy acting and goofy script all work pretty well to the advantage of the film, even if it is trying to spoof the old school movies in many ways (how can you not?). On the other hand, the intentional cheesiness of the whole event takes away from the credible, underlying storyline, to the point where it really doesn't matter what happens. After all, there is a reason why modern-day romantic comedies no longer look like this; audience tastes have changed. It is fairly unlikely that audiences can enjoy a throwback film such as this as much as Reed wants them to.
McGregor turns in a good performance as the sly Catcher Block; I am slowly beginning to realize that he is one of my favorite actors. He is fairly reliable but not as respected as he should be (why did Nicole Kidman get an Oscar nod for Moulin Rouge, but he did not, despite his tremendous performance?). I am not nearly a fan of Zellweger's, though, not because of her specifically but because of the characters she chooses to play. She was really the least interesting character in Chicago, and she isn't all that special here, either. There's just something about her characters that make me not care what happens to them.
Ultimately, Down with Love is moderately entertaining for the first two-thirds, but falters in the home stretch. The goofiness and overall comedy of the movie fade toward the end, especially when the "twist" is revealed. At this point the movie just skids to a stop, and, despite its best efforts (actually, it's a matter of opinion), never gets going again.
There are worse things to watch and there are better things to watch. Down with Love has its moments and overall isn't at all that bad of a movie, but will not appeal to everyone.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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