Tuesday, April 3, 2012
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003) [PG-13] ***
A film review by James Berardinelli.
One could easily make the argument that How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is a perfectly acceptable diversion. Kate Hudson's Andie Anderson and Matthew McConaughey's Ben Barry are both affable individuals and, when the script allows it, there are fitful sparks between them. Yet I can't bring myself to recommend the movie. Why? What's missing? Simple: the romance. This movie is so intent upon getting cheap laughs and putting the protagonists in uncomfortable situations that it forgets they're supposed to be falling in love. Even though they don't know it, we should be able to sense it. But it's not there. So when, in the dwindling minutes, the filmmakers recognize that a happy ending is needed, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days lets loose with a belated avalanche of hearts and flowers that radiates artificiality.
The storyline centers on a gargantuan contrivance that's as hard to swallow as a horse pill without water. And the clumsy screenplay doesn't do anything to coat it. Andie is the How-To Girl at Composure magazine, the fastest growing woman's magazine in the country. Although she has a Master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a burning desire to write about politics or religion, her editor (Bebe Neuwirth) has decreed that she must pen columns about dating, cosmetics, sex, and wardrobe. So, for her latest effort, she has decided to hook a guy into asking her out, then, by displaying every negative characteristic a woman can use in a relationship (being clingy, self-centered, jealous, etc.), prove that he won't last ten days with her. It's a how not to guide to building relationships.
The guinea pig for Andie's experiment is Ben. However, he's not just in this for the girl. He has bet his ad agency co-workers that he can make Andie fall in love with him within ten days. If he wins the bet, his boss (Robert Klein) agrees to allow him to manage a huge account. Of course, Ben doesn't know about Andie's agenda, and vice versa. So, for the next week-and-a-half, Andie does everything she can to get Ben to dump her, while Ben doggedly hangs in there, counting the days until he can get the account and run screaming away from Andie.
From time to time, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days has a little flavor of War of the Roses, but the movie doesn't have the courage to go more than a little distance down the path traveled by the Danny DeVito film. Director Donald Petrie (Miss Congeniality) wants us to like both Andie and Ben, so he never allows either of them to do anything too reprehensible. It's a shame, though, because the movie could have considerably more humorous, not to mention a lot edgier, had Petrie pushed the envelope. As it is, the best laughs come when the movie ventures towards the fringes of the safety net.
Bubbly actress Kate Hudson has proven herself to be very good at one kind of role, but with a shockingly limited range. For a vivid example of this, contrast her wonderful work in Almost Famous with her one-note collapse in The Four Feathers. Fortunately, lightweight parts such as this one are well within her capabilities, and she acquits herself admirably as Andie. Matthew McConaughey makes for a decent match. His good looks deflect most criticisms about his acting ability. But the problems with this movie have nothing to do with the leads, or with the sporadic nature of the sexual tension between them. Instead, they're more basic. I would be among the first to argue that, in a romantic comedy, the storyline is not everything. The problem is that, in movies like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, it's closer to nothing. [Berardinelli's rating: ** 1/2 out of 4]
Labels: comedy, romance