We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

Right at the gate, The Holiday has two things working against it: It’s seasonally themed. And it’s a romantic comedy. You can’t stitch together a more dangerous combination, even with writer-director Nancy Meyers (see: Something’s Gotta Give) in charge—or perhaps that should be “especially with” (don’t see: What Women Want). Meyers is known for nailing the realities of romance, and she sometimes does. But, dammit, she just can’t resist that sprinkling of fairy dust, and The Holiday gets a generous dose. The focus is on two hardworking women who, trying to recover from bad relationships, agree to swap homes for solo vacations. Amanda (Cameron Diaz) is a movie-trailer editor who sleeps with her BlackBerry instead of her straying boyfriend (Edward Burns). Iris (Kate Winslet) is a newspaper reporter who’s getting mixed messages from an ex (Rufus Sewell) and is devastated when she finds out he’s getting married. The very next day, Iris is off to Amanda’s giant Los Angeles home while Amanda heads to Iris’ cozy English cottage for intendedly men-free adventures. Right. Superstars have often elevated Meyers’ scripts, their charisma and comedic skill seducing you into loving their characters despite some oh-please lines such as “I finally know what I want…and what I want is you.” Jude Law gets to deliver that one in The Holiday, whose big names can’t help the waaay contrived story, because most of those names shouldn’t be there in the first place: Winslet, for instance, should never giddily bed-dance and play air guitar to Jet. Law is better as a cad than as someone who admits to weeping during touching commercials. And Jack Black may want to stretch, but as an “incredibly decent man” who ultimately sees himself as a loser? Let’s hope we never see that again. The only one who belongs here is Diaz, who, despite performing one goofy dance (it must be in her contract), finally gets to integrate her fizziness into a character who’s a full-grown woman. Meyers does serve up some nice scenes, the best of which involve Iris’ friendship with the revered elderly scriptwriter next door (Eli Wallach). And there are vulnerable, true-to-life moments that you won’t see in typical romantic comedies. But as one gag suggests—Amanda hears the Trailer Guy narrating movie-of-her-life commercials in her head—The Holiday is little more than your usual predictable Hollywood throwaway. —Tricia Olszewski