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IN SHORT: Better yet, down with this lame-oid. [Rated PG-13 for sexual humor and dialogue.]
"I used to do the Pony. I used to do the Twist. Then my horsie died and believe me he won't be missed because Rock and Roll is dead and we don't care!"
Anyone who recognizes that punk anthem from about 1979 is just about old enough to have experienced endless reruns of the three, count 'em three, movies made by Rock Hudson and Doris Day and any of the zillions of copycat sex-free romances that used to fill Saturday afternoon teevee schedules. Anyone old enough to remember Rock (pre MacMillan and Wife and way before he became the first celebrity AIDS death) from those movies regardless of orientation, or young and gay enough to idolize the pair from those movies should have a passable time at Down With Love, an homage to the days when The Pill was still such a novelty that only "bad" girls had sex before marriage. Men, of course, were expected to be studs in a 1962 pastel colored world without Buddy Holly (dead) or Elvis (in the Army) or another British Invasion or race riots (all years off). Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor), is the stud in question. He's an ace in more than one sense of the word. An ace journalist who shares breakfast, lunch and dinner with whichever stewardess friend happens to be in town, that hour, for layover. Star Trek/ Boston Public's Jeri Ryan likes to be lunch... Have lunch; she likes to have lunch between flights if Catcher has a free hour to eat... dinner; he'll have a quick dinner sometimes, too.
Double entendres, both spoken and visual, fly like snow in an avalanche with a lot more panache than anything we've stumbled through in the previous paragraphs. Down With Love so desperately tries to avoid anything specific that the "hints" are sometimes so blatant that laughter is a cringing relief. Sometimes the gags are funny. Sometimes they're embarrassing to laugh at. Sometimes they're just flat out dumb. Just the kind of stuff our parents (or perhaps the grandparents of any teen surfing the 'net) dated to. We know, we asked. Mom said "yep!" Dad cringed and swore that there would be no way he would go near a theater to plant for this one.
Neither parent is married to each other anymore, so neither one of 'em has to. Back to our story...
Catcher's best friend Peter MacManus (David Hyde Pierce) also happens to be his boss. The publisher of Know Magazine wishes some of that his pal's KNOWledge and confidence and knack for landing the air maidens would rub off, but no such luck. Catcher's made his fortune through hard effort. Peter inherited his position and simply, is barely fit to lick his friend's shoe. David Hyde Pierce gets to do all the jokes that he doesn't get to do as Niles Crane on teevee's Frasier, which doesn't give him a lot of room to play since the characters are the same closeted heterosexual on screens big and small. [For those that have avoided ten years of Frasier, the character is straight but preens like a queen].
The studly world of 1962 comes crashing down when an unknown writer, Barbara Novak (Renee Zellweger) teams with book editor Vikki Hiller (Sarah Paulson) to release "Down With Love". The book is a pre-feminist manifesto that, in the modern day of self-administered birth control, preaches that women have every right to behave just like the men who go looking for a good time the first night out. And if the newly liberated female has no such luck even getting that first date -- like the plain Jane comic relief provided by Saturday Night Live's Rachel Dratch, the solution is obvious. Eat a lot of chocolate. [insert rim shot -- that's a drumbeat not a double entendre -- here].
We should point out that all the old white men at Banner Publications, led by "TB" (Tony Randall -- cast because he played the DHPierce-type role in the original Hudson/Day films), harumph at the very idea that such a book would sell, so our ladies go it alone. Yep, it's a battle of the sexes laid out from the very first act, as ace Journalist Catcher decides to show the hypocrisy of Barbara's thesis. Pretending to be an astronaut named, he romances the author and refuses to put out. Even crazier is what happens to the world when the book gets a firestorm of publicity, thanks to television and movie superstars Ed Sullivan (Will Jordan) and Judy Garland (Vivien Latham).
It's about as desperate and as sex-free as any love conquers all idea for a film. The most egregious problem with the film falls squarely in the lap of the director and makeup artists -- for in every scene in which Renee Zellweger is supposed to be kicking the romantic bar up a notch, she's made up to look as if her face has been stuffed with play-dough. The chemistry between Zellweger and McGregor is nonexistent. Hyde Pierce goes through the motions and anyone born after 1985 won't get the cultural references. Down With Love is a rental on all counts.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Down With Love, he would have paid . . .
You could take a date if you've got time to kill if you didn't preorder tickets to The Matrix: Reloaded (which this film is releasing head to head with)
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