Down with musical films

By Karoline Czerski

Is razzle dazzle coming back to life? Are we witnessing a new era where Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger are icons to starving actors who no longer expect to simply recite lines, but also practice dance numbers in the street and sing passionately in the shower?

Don’t fret, all you musically challenged artists, if this is Hollywood’s next hit genre, then Down With Love sets the tone for a quick fizzled end. While Moulin Rouge filled us with musical wonder, and Chicago with an appreciation for wonderful legs, Down With Love fills the theatre with a kitsch storyline that barely razzles and, quite frankly, only hopes to dazzle.

Peyton Reed, director of Bring It On, tries to recreate the Doris Day/Rock Hudson sex comedies but falls short, tending to overlook chemistry between the characters and story development. Screenwriting credits go to Eve Ahlert and Dennis Drake, television veterans who seem to forget that cliched puns make people laugh hard only once.

Set in the Technicolor world of 1962 New York, Down With Love draws author Barbara Novak (Renee Zellweger) to the Big Apple, where her book, Down With Love, prompts a sexual equality movement that transforms the male-dominated workplace into Martha Stewart’s kitchen. Novak meets her challenge when playboy/journalist Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor) tries to prove her theory wrong–women do need love and not just sex.

If McGregor, an actor trained in musical theatre, was given the chance to show his talent, or if Zellweger had a chance to improve hers, perhaps the film would not be such an embarrassment when compared to their previous performances. Even David Hyde Pierce, Frasier’s Niles, fails to hit the mark on punch lines, leading us to believe that Eddy really does play a key comical role in the show.

Sometimes I felt that Down With Love wanted me to believe that I do really need sex, I mean love. At other times I found myself wishing that playboy/journalists were more appreciated in our conservative society.

Mostly though, I thought the film should have offered some more meat, heat and passion. After all, if you’re going to razzle and dazzle, you need to do it right.

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