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A LOT LIKE LOVE

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Ashton Kutcher, Amanda Peet, Kathryn Hahn, Kal Penn, Ali Larter, Gabriel Mann
Director: Nigel Cole
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Touchstone
Features: See Review
Length: 107 Minutes
Release Date: August 23, 2005

“I know I’m probably six years too late, but will you give me strike one back?”

Film **

Were it not for the very appeal of its leading stars, A Lot Like Love would be a lot like a big disaster. Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet are immensely likeable actors who are forced into a yet another needlessly contrived and very predictable romantic comedy. It’s one of those movies where everything that’s going to happen is clear right from the opening.

The movie begins on a most awkward note. Arriving at an airport, young Oliver Geary (Kutcher), witnesses a young couple getting into an argument, which is then followed by the boyfriend officially dumping the girl, named Emily (Peet). After catching Oliver eyeing her a number of times before they board the same flight, Emily waits for him to make a move to the bathroom, where she makes the opportunity to join the mile high club, even though at this point they don’t know each other names.

It’s clear that this was a case of angry rebound sex for Emily, but weirdly enough, she and Oliver start talking and get to know each other after the spontaneous incident. She already gives him a strike against him for having to make the first move. They spend time together before parting ways, for reasons that will simply serve as an excuse for seven years to pass before the inevitable occurs.

The movie does try to be a bit different by having the story progress over a longer than usual period of time. It’s an intriguing plot device, but it does nothing to hide the predictability. Over the course of this period of time, Oliver and Emily do run into each other on several occasions. Three years after the first meet, they meet at, wouldn’t ya know it, just when Emily has been dumped yet again. They go to a New Year’s party, where sparks fly but without a follow through.

A few more years down the road, Oliver now has a girlfriend and a successful job, but this time HE gets dumped. Oliver then meets up with Emily and the two take a spontaneous road trip to the desert. They make out under the stars, and just when it seems that the right elements are in place, Oliver has to leave for a business reasons.

Months later, the story is juiced with plot device of one of the characters engaged, which of course goes sour. Then one of them is believed to be getting married, making the other recently engaged quite jealous. It’s the kind of way-too-convoluted storyline that attempts to throw the viewer off before reaching the inevitable conclusion.

There are two elements in A Lot Like Love that work. The first is that of Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet, who both give nice performances that overshadow the weak story, but just not enough. They are the ideal young romantic movie couple, but the screenplay never allows their characters to be smarter than they should be.

The second element is the music in the movie, which is provided by some terrific performers. With a glance of who all contributed to the soundtrack, I can certainly say that it’s a much better accomplishment than the movie itself. Two of my new favorite artists can be heard in the movie, Anna Nalick with “Breathe (2 AM)” and Aqualung with the beautifully performed “Brighter Than Sunshine”, are just the kind of great music that can grab your attention. And in the case of this movie, that’s a very good thing.

Had it ridden itself of the conventional qualities that plague so many romantic comedy/dramas, A Lot Like Love might have been a good movie, maybe even a terrific one. The presence of Kutcher and Peet saves it from being much worse, and I wouldn’t even mind seeing the two of them in another movie. Hopefully, it won’t have mediocre results.

Video ***

The anamorphic picture, provided by Disney/Touchstone, is a mostly good one. The image is that of a nice and crisp image, with some nice level of detail throughout the presentation. I did detect a few blemishes at sporadic portions; most of which were early in the movie. Colors are well and quite natural. For the most part, a very decent look of a disc.

Audio ***

The supplied 5.1 mix does a very good job, in spite of the fact that this film is all dialogue. The delivery of words is superbly clear, and music from the soundtrack sounds nothing short of fantastic. Several set pieces also add some extra bite to the presentation.

Features **1/2

Included on this disc is a commentary track with director Nigel Cole and producers Armyan Bernstein and Kevin Messick, as well as a blooper reel, deleted scenes,  the music video for Aqualung’s “Brighter Than Sunshine”, and several bonus previews.

Summary:

Unless you’re a pure sucker for romantic comedies, A Lot Like Love is likely to feel a lot like other movies you’ve seen before. I would see it only for Ashton and Amanda, in addition to the great soundtrack.

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