Raised by a father who produced The Dick Van Dyke Show, Rob Reiner knows charm down to its bones. His most beguiling romances—The Princess Bride, The Sure Thing—set a high bar for the director’s latest, Alex & Emma, and Reiner & Co. clear it handily. Jeremy Leven’s breezy, compact script aims for a summer-date-flick audience that will have no use for such press-kit trivia as the fact that the film was inspired by Dostoevsky’s composition of The Gambler. Alex (Luke Wilson), a novelist complete with bohemian-issue stubble and book-lined garret, is already in the throes of writer’s block when two thugs hold his laptop to an open flame. Bereft of his Mac, Alex has 30 days to complete his novel and get the cash to pay his debt to the sharks, or it’s Rub-Out Time. Enter Emma (Kate Hudson), with her sensible auburn hair and her little black steno machine, to take his dictation. Soon we’re whisked between the cloud-cuckoo-land of Alex’s Jazz Age novel, featuring impoverished tutor Adam (Wilson again) and his desire for French rich bitch Polina (Sophie Marceau), and the Hollywood-distressed confines of Alex’s digs, where Emma needles him about plot implausibilities and poorly drawn female characters. The most shocking thing about Alex & Emma is the appearance of Rip Taylor in the story-within-a-story, playing confetti-free and nearly wordless. But this film’s not about shaking our foundations; it’s about being pretty and droll and pleasing. And with Hudson, who never missteps into muggery, ditziness, or other comedy-babe traps, Reiner has found the best possible Emma: You won’t believe she can afford that nice apartment, but you will believe she’s enough of a real person to keep rooting for. —Pamela Murray Winters