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Movie Review: How to make a lame romantic comedy

Friday, February 07, 2003

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

She's adorable. He's irresistible. They make such a cute couple, what's the problem?


RATING: PG-13 for some sex-related material

STARRING: Kate Hudson, Matthew McConaughey

DIRECTOR: Donald Petrie

Critic's call:


Well, their relationship is built on a lie. Two lies, in fact. And in these days of "Joe Millionaire," that's a problem because ... it's the premise of the romantic comedy "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days," a movie that coasts on the charm and appeal of its stars, Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson.

In a way, it's not unlike the pictures Rock Hudson and Doris Day used to make, although Doris never tried to spook Rock by stashing feminine-hygiene products in his bathroom or giving his genitalia a cutesy name guaranteed to douse any romantic fires. At least not in the versions I watched on TV.

Hudson plays Andie Anderson, a writer for a frothy women's magazine titled Composure who specializes in how-to articles such as how to get a better body, feng shui your apartment or talk your way out of a ticket. She really wants to write serious pieces, like "how to bring peace to Tajikistan" but her boss won't let her -- yet.

Andie suggests a piece called "how to lose a guy in 10 days" just as advertising man Benjamin Barry (McConaughey) is trying to break out of his usual assignments of pitching alcoholic beverages and athletic equipment. He makes a bet with his boss that he can make any woman fall in love with him in 10 days. If he does, he will get a shot at handling the agency's diamonds account, seen as the province of the female execs who have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Of course, Andie and Ben end up dating and finding their ulterior motives giving way to real emotion. Coaching from the sidelines are their friends -- a pair apiece -- plus their respective bosses played by Bebe Neuwirth and Robert Klein.

"How to Lose a Guy" was inspired by a 1998 novelty book of the same name, subtitled "The Universal Don'ts of Dating." It's a collection of stick-figure drawings and suggestions such as "Talk in your cutest baby voice -- all the time."

The movie isn't quite that simplistic or moronic, although it's no "Sleepless in Seattle," which Andie and Ben watch during a chick-flick marathon. To its credit, "How to Lose" mainly makes Andie annoying and not truly mean-spirited, although one of her tricks gets Ben punched in the face by a stranger.

"How to Lose" is occasionally amusing, not truly funny, and it only works because of its leading players, who are far better than their material. McConaughey, with a lush head of hair again after his turn as a bald, maniacal dragon slayer in "Reign of Fire," has the charm machine on full tilt. Hudson specializes in cute and has a hard time convincing us she aspires to more serious things.

Of course if the writers wanted to convey that Andie was smart and ambitious, they shouldn't have given her a master's in journalism from Columbia University and the belief that a magazine such as Composure would want her to write about sober subjects such as politics or religion or economics. Hello? How to get a clue in 10 minutes.

Some of the best jokes are telegraphed in the preview but it was an hour before I first looked at my watch (with some movies, it's 10 minutes) and remembered the tragic Columbia shuttle news I had watched earlier that day. Still, did they need the flatulent uncle or card game with the name of "Bull--."

Yes, as the song says, isn't it romantic.

Barbara Vancheri can be reached atbvancheri@post-gazette.com . or 412-263-1632.

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