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film: Love Me Don't

"Down with Love" entertains, but lacks the fun of the '60s romantic romps it's out to mimic.

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But like leftover champagne, "Down With Love" isn't as bubbly as it should be. You can see and applaud the effort going into it, but this kind of froth should appear effortless: Otherwise, why bother?

Despite this, the sight of Zellweger in her pink couture confections, flipped-up hair and white hatboxlike purse well in hand, is a delightful one. So is Ewan McGregor "vogue-ing" around in a white tux like some junior James Bond in-training candidate. Although both actors have the right kind of ditsy charm for this sort of work, several odd directorial choices undermine their efforts. Most confounding is Reed's decision to have them recite their lines in stagey, glib manner. (Even Day and Hudson, at their downright silliest, were more natural than this.)

For those who remember the '60s romantic romps being aped here, this is not really a remake of "Pillow Talk," although the presence of a remote-controlled bed as well as Tony Randall could certainly lead one to assume that it is. The film is set in New York circa 1962, Barbara is the author of a popular feminist manifesto titled "Down With Love," which teaches women to live life as men do. But at heart — witness that "swooping retrieval act" — "Bobby" (natch!) is just another single gal pining for her Prince Charming. When she finally encounters him (McGregor), he is, of course, not quite what he seems.

As movies of the romantic-romp ilk require, a lengthy deception plays out between the two, as they repel and attract each other in ritzy nightclubs, gadget-filled manly apartments and downtown beatnik parties. All of these scenes are done with plenty of nods to the movies they imitate, including split-screen scenes, "naughty" sight gags that turn out to be perfectly innocent, and moments of pure '60s detail, such as when Zellweger dances alone in her apartment, wearing a negligee and matching marabou mules.

Sadly, "Down with Love" sounds like more fun than it is, and in an odd way, it's far more enjoyable recounting to others the movie's many period-precious moments than it is watching them play out on the screen. But perhaps most disheartening is the lack of chemistry between Zellweger and McGregor.

"Down with Love" is pleasant enough as a breezy diversion, but in the end, it's even emptier than the movies it's trying to spoof. Zellweger, whose goofily brilliant delivery of Barbara's final speech almost succeeds at redeeming the whole thing, deserves better. So does McGregor. So does the audience. *** S

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