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IN SHORT: A perfectly average romantic comedy. [Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some language. 93 minutes]
Alex Sheldon is having a miserable day, which is nothing compared to Adam Shipley's miserable day. Except for the fact that Adam's day exists only in the mind of writer Alex who is on deadline to finish the unstarted novel which will keep him from getting killed by Cuban loan sharks (and/or) mafia and he doesn't have the slightest idea what to write -- OK, everyone who can guess that the movie-story-in-a-story (Adam's) is going to parallel the main movie story (Alex's) raise your hands. All of you. -- OK, we'll skip the end of that sentence, write this review of Alex & Emma and think about declaring the end of Rob Reiner's creative career.
Thinking . . . Thinking . . . No, Reiner didn't write this thing so we've decided to call it a stumble on his part and move on to the next 'graph in which we make the stunning admission that, yes, we're . . .
. . . male. All the femmes in our advance screening of Alex & Emma -- not a private screening room gathering of critics but one filled with "real" people -- loved the thing. Reiner made a comedic chick flick (which means the rest of us men are spared the heavy duty wetworks that usually stuff a standard c.f.). Save one exceptionally out of the usual scene that occurs about two thirds of the way through, and which made sitting through all that came before and after worthwhile, y'all could write this story in your sleep and pocket the ten bucks a first run ticket will cost you. The only positive note to be struck is the almost universally delightful performance of Kate Hudson in multiple roles, all with their own accent.
Briefly, Alex Sheldon (Luke Wilson) is the "real life" writer who has thirty days to deliver his second novel to his publisher, played by director Reiner. He doesn't get paid until delivery and he may not live long enough to deliver as the Cuban mafia is literally banging down his door to collect on a gambling debt. Stuck staring at a yellow pad, Alex hires stenographer Emma Dinsmore (Kate Hudson) to take down his every fictionalized thought. Emma happens to be a fan of Alex' first book "Love Is Always Having To Say You're Sorry," else her personality would be borderline abrasive. Alex has no idea what he is going to write and Emma forces him to work in a manner that would make those Cubans envious. Don't worry, those of y'all who live for those moments of threatened physical violence, they'll show up exactly when you think they will. All very much by the screen writing handbook.
At least it's not love at first sight. It could be love at first assault if Emma wasn't packing pepper spray and a stun gun and annoyed as all get out since she thought she was getting a high paying job at a legal firm intriguingly named after a whole bunch of dead presidents. Adam is struck dumb. Worse than that actually, but telling would spill the first real joke of the movie so stay planted. There are enough of these small moments that the truly annoying stuff will soon come to be less truly annoying. But, knowing that the lovely Emma has a fiancée, he manages to calm down and get working.
So, Alex starts dictating the story of Adam who, in the 1924 time setting, is hired to tutor the children of French beauty Polina Delacroix (Sophie Marceau). On the train ride up to Maine, the fictional Adam meets John Shaw (David Paymer) who has lent half a million dollars to Polina to free her from debts and intends to collect his end of the deal with her hand in marriage. Alex will be tormented by the hot looking servants of the Polina household -- a Swede called Ylva, the German Elsa, a Spanish called beauty Eldora and down-to-earth American Anna (all played by Ms. Hudson who drops her foreign accent only once in the whole megillah. OTT she gets a thumbs up for creating distinct characters.) even as he desperately tries to figure out how to raise half a million to buy the hand of the lovely Polina. One option is intriguing. The other involves a casino on the other side of the island these rich folk inhabit. Lessee, Adam had a money problem which led to loan sharks. Now Alex does, too.
And all the while Emma keeps ripping the audience out of the lovingly created 1920s story by pointing out every dumb move and bad character action and motivation that Alex comes up with. Gee, you'd think she'd write the story on the sly and save the day and her eventual boyfriend's neck wouldn't you? Sorta Kinda NotQuiteA. If there had been more moments just off the mark like that one, or the others we've hinted at, Alex & Emma could rank as the first must see dateflick of the year. Maybe from the femme POV. Our nod went to another, The Italian Job, a couple of weeks back. What flushes Alex and Emma for good is the very last scene, a tacked on job whose reason and resolution were so obvious that our audience started streaming for the exits with a full five minutes to go.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Alex & Emma, he would have paid . . .
An average dateflick is one that's perfect for at least half the dating audience. Everybody else suck it in.
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