Ewan McGregor, the singing, dancing, Scottish jedi, has possessed the soul of old time star Rock Hudson and turned him into a raging heterosexual.
He's doing it opposite Renee Zellweger in Down With Love, a retro-ish sex comedy that can't quite decide if it is a parody or a tribute to those old Rock Hudson romantic sex-romps of a bygone golden age era. Directed by Peyton Reed (the guy bringing you the Fantastic Four in 2004), Down With Love rips off a somewhat familiar concept in which two successful writers, Catcher Block (McGregor) and Barbara Novak (Zellweger), try to prove a point by luring one another into falling in love. The twist is that unlike the fairly similar How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days, Down With Love doesn't use annoyingly cute people to suck the life out of you.
McGregor is dazzling as Catcher Block, even when forced to position himself next to Renee Zellweger's indecisively inflating rubber head. The two play off each other with a gleeful rapidity that at its very best brings back all those warm and fuzzy feelings we get from the more randy romantic films of the good old sixties. I love this movie when its paying tribute to those older films rather than parodying them, right down to the grainy old Cinescope logo used at the beginning of the film.
When not trading innuendo and barbs, Block and Novak spend time hanging with their slightly less pretty friends played by "Frasier's" David Hyde Pierce and Sarah Paulson. In some ways their relationships with the primary cast, and secondary love story with each other, outshines the cheeky game played by Novak and Block. Pierce especially turns it on as a bumbling second-generation rich boy trundling around in the shadows of Catcher's self-made success. Actually, how about giving Frasier's little brother more of a movie career? Anyone who can steal scenes from a talent like Ewan McGregor deserves a closer look.
However, just when it could have been headed towards pure greatness, Down With Love falls apart. It does so in parody of the very movies it is playing homage to, getting lost in a fuzzy world that crosses the line from charming bit of nostalgia to outright 60's filmmaking mockery. The intent is wink-and-nod humor, the result is just stupidly laughable and should have been left on the cutting room floor in favor of the much wittier bits that flow naturally throughout the film. The ending particularly falls prey to these parody intentions and may leave you feeling like the good time you've just had was all at your own expense.
Even with a few flaws in its good intentions, Down With Love is a raucously romantic. Good cast chemistry and a wonderfully colorful 60's styled backdrop, courtesy of some creative and sharp work from Director Peyton Reed, make this retroactive romantic comedy the best madcap sex romp around in this hyper-techno movie year.