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2 "Comedies"
(Down With Love
& Bruce Almighty)
Reviewed by Dennis Morton

"Down With Love" is set in Manhattan, 1962. It stars the always likeable Renee Zellwegger and the chameleon Scots actor, Ewan McGregor. This film bogs down almost at the beginning and never recovers. "Down With Love" is a fastidious exercise in phony nostalgia, a pair of negatives that doesn’t add up to the real thing.

In the opening moments of this ponderous would-be satire, an impossible number of geekily dressed young people tumble out of a taxi. They’re holding "Ban The Bomb" signs and chanting slogans as the taxi pulls away. The taxi backfires and they dive to the sidewalk. Other New Yorkers walk around them, unblinking and unfazed. The implication is that these dowdy protesters are cowards.

Later, we’re treated to an intentionally clumsy split-screen simulation of oral sex between the two stars. They’re talking, more or less innocently, on the phone. It’s really the director winking at the audience. I couldn’t wink back.

"Down With Love" is flat, stale, and unworthy of Zellwegger’s talents. McEwan is miscast as a clever lady’s man, a role he’s not yet suited for. We know his character’s comeuppance is coming, and we hardly care.

There are a few good moments. The best is a tour de force long speech by Zellwegger’s character. It’s cleverly written and breath-takingly delivered. If only it weren’t sandwiched by so much tasteless baloney, this scene alone would be worth the cost of admission. Alas, even accompanied by a terrific song and dance routine by the two stars at the close of the movie, my assessment of this mediocrity is: down with "Down With Love".

"Bruce Almighty" is a bit better. It’s pretty much a vehicle for Jim Carey’s inimitable antics. There’s a promising story line, but once the gimmick is introduced, there are few surprises. The movie grinds to a more or less predictable ending, losing pace along the way. However, any movie in which Morgan Freeman gets more than a few lines is worth seeing, just for the pleasure of watching him act.

As the previews too readily reveal, Morgan Freeman is God and Jim Carey is an egomaniacal features reporter for a tv station in the provinces - Buffalo, to be exact. Carey’s character is an ambitious whiner, with a victim complex. On the chance that we might be treated to a funny movie, God decides to take a vacation and leave Carey in charge of the universe, which is, for Carey, Buffalo.

There are a few truly hilarious scenes. The best involves an act of supreme unkindness for which someone, guess who, will pay a price.

Ultimately, I was disappointed with "Bruce Almighty". The writing is sharper and the scenes are funnier that most of what can be found in "Down With Love", but Jim Carey, like the character he plays in "Bruce Almighty" can, and has, done better. Morgan Freeman, as ever, is a delight. If you have to choose between them, see "Bruce Almighty".

For KUSP’s Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.