Retro dud

Down with Love
Starring Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor. Directed by Peyton Reed. Rated PG-13.
Rated 2.0 It’s not clear whether Down With Love means to spoof the Doris Day–Rock Hudson romantic comedies of the early 1960s or to construct its own revisionist 20/20-hindsight pastiche of those gaudily repressed and overdressed films. Worse yet, the filmmakers squander their best hopes on both counts and end up making you feel that Doris-and-Rock films like Pillow Talk are better than they actually are.

The thing would seem to have a lot going for it—a punning script by Eve Ahlert and Dennis Drake, campily stylized direction by Peyton Reed, swanky pastel decor and mock-period costumes, split-screen antics, an urge to morph into an old-fashioned movie musical, plus, from a certain angle, at least, the offbeat appeal of indie stars Renàe Zellweger and Ewan McGregor. But the whole fandango pulls up lame early on and limps along thereafter, often on the edge of total flop.

Among the recent retro concoctions (The Truth About Charlie, Far From Heaven, CQ, etc.), it has the least reason for having been made at all. And even as a charming trifle, it commits a kind of cinematic sin in exposing the physical limitations of its lead players—McGregor’s toothy rendition of a Cary Grant/James Bond/Rock Hudson type ends up looking more like a very wan "impression" of Austin Powers, and some shots of Zellweger make her squinty-eyed baby face look into something bordering on grotesque (and hence badly misplaced) caricature.