A Lot Like Love

Original, creative and enjoyable, new romantic comedies can be hard to come by. On the other hand, failure is easy to come by if the stories are completely unimaginative or ‘by-the book’, the lead actors have zero chemistry or the script just isn’t funny. Sometimes, though, a movie takes a chance on an oddball concept with an unexpected couple spouting inimitable dialogue and the result is a lot like a great movie, but not quite. Oliver and Emily have the ultimate long distance relationship. Rather than being separated by hundreds of miles, hundreds of days keep them apart. Their on-and-off friendship with benefits begins when, as total strangers, they get it on in an airplane lavatory. You know your relationship is on a solid foundation when your first time is a race against the ‘fasten your seatbelt’ alert.

Over the course of the next seven years they continue to cross paths, running back and forth to each other whenever one or the other’s life begins to collapse around them, like when Oliver’s internet diaper sales web site collapses. Apparently your dot com company being brought down by diaper rash is a great reason to get back with an old flame. Each time they get together, often having sex under weird circumstances, they spend anywhere from hours to days with each other before deciding they could never be together and moving on. Years pass before they see each other again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The movie is chock full of witty lines and peppered with plenty of independently funny moments, but very few of them help the story along. While the humor isn’t forced, it often feels more like comic relief than romantic comedy. The saving grace for this repetitious concept is the relatively creative series of obstacles that keep the two from acknowledging the truth to each other and finally getting together. On the other hand, it’s hard to buy that in seven years the two only really spend a week in each other’s company but still manage to fall in love. At least we don’t have to believe they’re really in love, just something a lot like it.

Amanda Peet and Ashton Kutcher. Who the heck ever would have thought to put those two together? Despite the unusual pairing, they’re a lot like a good romantic comedy couple (getting tired of those title clichés yet?) and they cover for each other well. Peet carries Kutcher through most of the dramatic moments, and in exchange Kutcher handles most of what he’s best at, the embarrassing stuff. They’re both very funny actors and their comic styles are the backbone of the film, but they manage the more serious, emotional moments with ample sincerity. Still, they lack that kind of magic spark that sets apart the perfect rom-com couple from the rest.

A Lot Like Love takes something of a chance on a mostly unique angle, and in the end we get something that’s a lot like a pay off (last one, I promise). We’ve seen the general idea before in When Harry Met Sally, a story about two people who are perfect for each other but need a lot of time to figure it out for themselves. Although the ending is a bit predictable and trite, the journey there is a fun, if highly unbelievable one. The DVD for A Lot Like Love has everything it should. That may seem too simple for a compliment, but given the recent trend in discs I consider it high praise. Lately the releases I’ve reviewed have touted themselves as collector’s series or special editions but their contents are pathetic. It’s like expecting prime rib but getting a happy meal without the prize. This disc doesn’t have the goods to be some kind of unique, hyped up release, but then, it doesn’t tout itself as one either. It’s a standard release with the standard fare and that’s depressingly refreshing.

Director Nigel Cole and producers Armyan Bernstein and Kevin Messick come together to deliver one of the most entertaining and enjoyable commentaries I’ve ever heard. They balance semi-serious discussions about the story and actors with all kinds of witty and self-deprecating humor, pausing occasionally to make blooper observations or to make fun of the actors. It’s not the kind of thing I’d want to hear for Schindler’s List, but just about any other movie could benefit from this kind of commentary.

Usually I find deleted scenes a mystery. They’re often excellent moments that deserve to be in the film but seem to have been cut to shorten the movie. Not so here. Each and every cut scene seems like a good call. Most of them feature Ashton reverting to his Kelso persona from “That Seventies Show”. To boot, they’re not great scenes and they don’t seem to fit, hence why Nigel so wisely chopped them. Still, they’re worth a viewing. Amanda Peet is lovely to watch no matter how bad the scene.

Any good comedy should have a blooper reel and this disc doesn’t fail. There’s something perversely funny about getting to watch Amanda run into the same glass window over and over. It’s also strangely satisfying to see a non-smoking actor struggle with the finer points of the nasty habit.

Throw in an Aqualung music video and some hip title screens and you’ve got a nicely rounded romantic comedy DVD. My only complaint is the obnoxious, repetitive music that runs during each of the different menu screens. It’s like listening to every intro-outro bit from any episode of “Friends” played back to back. Apart from that, this is a great release that any Ashton Kutcher or Amanda Peet fan could be proud to own.