"The best 1960s comedy released so far this year."
For the most part, I loathe any modern film defined as a "romantic comedy"; not because I'm a cold and callous guy but because most of these movies are lazy and pedantic and poorly veiled vehicles for whatever rich lady may be the current Big Multiplex Draw this week. In a genre overloaded with moronic contrivances, tiresome plot devices and characters so transparent they should be starring in a HOLLOW MAN sequel, it's cause for admiration when something new comes along. And in Hollywood, "new" just means "really old and repackaged".It's not necessary for one to have a familiarity with the old Rock Hudson/Doris Day flicks from the 1960s in order to enjoy the effusive and good-natured silliness of Peyton Reed's Down with Love - but it may help a little. In a sub-genre of movies where everything seems programmed by computer, it's encouraging to see a movie that achieves originality by harkening back to the painfully innocent days of 1962.
Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger step into the Hudson/Day formula as Catcher Block and Barbara Novak; he's a playboy with a killer reputation, she's a new author on the scene. Her book, Down with Love, is a call for emancipation: no longer should women be content to solely raise babies and keep a spotless house. Through Barbara's book, women all over the world are discovering their own independence. Catcher Block (a chauvanistic ladies' man and mega-popular magazine columnist) is having none of it.
In your typical modern-day rom-com, Block's plan would be the entire plot: he tries to sabotage her into falling in love while she continues to rebuff her advances. Clearly a movie needs more than this meager storyline to keep it afloat.
And that's where Reed and his superlative art designers come in. Like this movie or not, there's simply no denying that it's an absolute joy to LOOK at. That the screenplay deftly juggles some effective bits of what I call Three's Company gags ("It's not LONG enough! I can't make it FIT!") and gives people like McGregor and David Hyde Pierce some truly funny things to say is the icing on the cake. I can't really speak all that much on the film's devotion to its source material (I've only seen one Hudson/Day flick and that was more than enough) but the simple truth is that Down with Love plastered a bemused little grin on my face and it stuck there until the end credits showed up.
Down with Love is broad, silly and sort of predictable. It's also a refeshing breeze of cool air at a time of year that most people are gearing up for CGI explosions and machine gun violence. (I love big-budget insanity too, but this movie plays as perfect counter-programming for the summertime heavyweights.) Laden with excellent performances and surprisingly funny moments, Down with Love is a lightweight trifle to be sure; but it's a lightweight trifle that kept me laughing and smiling for 100 minutes.Odds are you'll like this flick insofar as you appreciate the talents of Mr. McGregor and Ms. Zellweger. Both are absolutely spot-on perfect here, and their performances lend the film a confident posture which elevates it way above our modern-day romantic comedies. To see this sort of colorful goofiness presented with such professional gusto is a rare occurence these days. Guys, forget that it's labeled as "romantic". Fact is this movie's just plain old funny.