Down With Love

Bomb Rating: 

"Down with Love" takes us back to a nostalgic time known as· 1998. That's when the Austin Powers-inspired '60s retro fad still had some steam left in it, and green-lighting a movie like this would have been considered catching the culture train rather than showing up at the station five years too late. Part tribute, part send-up of the romantic comedies of the early 1960s, "Down with Love" reminds us that as bad as movies are today, there was a time when they were actually worse.

That's right, worse. "Down with Love" is full of such cinematic subtleties as bug-eyed reaction shots, jokes where the punch line is a character fainting from shock, and a wacky score that mirrors each joke's setup and delivery like a drunken musical subtitle. I myself decided to join in the zany fun, celebrating each gag by loudly smacking myself in the forehead and shouting such things as "WHAAAAA?", "Ka-boing!", "Wacka-wacka!" and "Aye-yie-yie!" (When the night manager comes, I know how to hide.)

Feuding New York writers Barbara Novak (Renée Zellweger) and Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor) are of course just fighting their way to their inevitable union. Zellweger, however, looks like she spent her first day on the set insulting the makeup team because her eyeliner is so thickly applied it leaves two dark holes where her eyes should be. Or perhaps that's just the shadow from McGregor, who plays his role with such overabundant zeal that you want to edge away from the screen. Enthusiasm is a good thing, but while Renée stumbles through her lines in a breathless whisper, McGregor dances, sings, mugs, grins, spins plates and ends up developing better chemistry with bosom buddy Peter (David Hyde Pierce). By this point, the three guys in the front row in Obi-Wan Kenobi outfits were plenty confused.

As for the consummation of the central relationship, this movie's more averse to the sweaty details of the actual sex act than an Ephron film. It's all innuendo, split-screen simulations and more double entendres than a Three's Company marathon. Just once, I'd like to see one of these antiseptic sex comedies show us some actual sex: Have them go at it like rabbits in heat. Break out the latex toys and the lubricant rack. Let's travel back in time and shake up the zeitgeist with a Hot Carl, a Dirty Sanchez and a Chocolate Ashcroft. Nothing says love like being woken up in the morning with a Chocolate Ashcroft.

Yes, I know "Down with Love" is just a send-up. But frankly, that's no excuse to suck. And in the end "Down with Love" sucks harder, smells worse, is more stain-prone and leaves more emotional rug-burns than... well, than a Chocolate Ashcroft.

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