There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
From the moment champagne corks float by in the animated title sequence until Ewan McGregor belts out “I’ll be your Rock if you’ll be my Doris” over the closing credits, Down With Love never stops oozing ’60s sex comedy. I was dubious about the need for a Rock Hudson-Doris Day spoof, but with director Peyton Reed behind the wheel, Down With Love becomes a Technicolor buffet for film buffs. Renée Zellweger fits right into Day’s pumps as Barbara Novak, a “spinster librarian” who walks into NYC all doe-eyed and yellow-dressed, carrying nothing but her round suitcase and the manuscript for an advice book, Down With Love. Novak’s tome, which encourages women to storm the boardroom and have “sex à la carte,” turns her into Gloria Steinem and raises the hackles of swingin’ single journo Catcher Block (McGregor). In defense of his shrinking black book, Block invents a twangin’, Tang-in’ astronaut alter ego to woo Novak, exposing herand thereby all womenas love lovers. The drab, standard-issue plot loses its mediciney taste with the help of some standout second-bananaing from David Hyde Pierce, who does Tony “I Have a Token Role” Randall proud with his portrayal of fey comic foil Peter McMannus. Down With Love goes down like candy mostly, though, because the movie looks like a sweet shop. The visual feast includes Novak’s hyper-stylized mod wardrobe, glowing in vibrant yellows, greens, and houndstooth, and Block’s bachelor pad, which comes complete with enough gadgets for an oversexed George Jetson. The jazzy score butts in with intrusive aural cues, and several attempts at rapid-fire dialogue are less evocative of His Girl Friday than What a Girl Wants. But when the patter falls flat, Reed (2000’s Bring It On) consistently fills the frame with movie-nerd delights. There are split-screen sexual calisthenics that would make Austin Powers proud, that driving-in-a-car-with-stock-footage-out-the-back-window shot, references to Vertigo, and, as the cherry on top, a Scream-esque meta-analysis of romantic-comedy cause and effect. Highlighting the banality of its subject matter makes the secret of Down With Love’s success transparent: When the gift isn’t anything special, add some sparkly wrapping paper and top it off with a really pretty bow.Josh Levin