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Peyton Reed
Ewan McGregor, Renee Zellweger, Sarah Paulson, David Hyde Pierce, Rachel Dratch
Writing Credits:
Eve Ahlert, Dennis Drake

The ultimate catch has met his match.

When best-selling feminist author Barbara Novak (Zellweger) becomes the target of dashing playboy Catcher Block (McGregor), these sparring, would-be lovers generate enough sparks to fly you to the moon and back. In other words, the ultimate catch has just met his match!

Box Office:
Opening Weekend $45.029 thousand on 1 screen.
Domestic Gross $20.298 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 102 min.
Price: $27.98
Release Date: 10/7/2003

• Audio Commentary with Director Peyton Reed
• ”Here’s To Love” – Original Network TV Performance
Down With Love Deleted Scenes
• ”Guess My Game” featuring Celebrity Mystery Guest Barbara Novak – Original Network Broadcast
Down With Love Hair and Wardrobe Tests
Down With Love Blooper Reel
Down With Love Documentaries (Six mini-documentaries)
• HBO Special
Down With Love Testimonial
• Music Promo

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Down With Love (2003)

Reviewed by David Williams (September 22, 2003)

During the timeframe of 1959 thru 1964, Rock Hudson and Doris Day starred in three films together - Pillow Talk (a favorite of my wife’s), Lover Come Back, and Send Me No Flowers and in 2003’s Down With Love, director Peyton Reed and company lovingly parody these safe, innuendo-charged films with a 21st century update. While the film parodies the Hudson/Day dynamic (complete with a dubiously gay Tony Randall character), it steals its storyline right from the screenplay of Sex and the Single Girl, which starred Natalie Wood as the best-selling author of a women’s “sex manual” and Tony Curtis was a magazine writer out to expose her as a fraud. While not quite as fun as I had originally imagined, Down With Love is a breezy romp that does a respectable job of lampooning its archetype(s), as well as paying homage to it at the same time.

The storyline is really no more or no less than what I just described, as Down With Love introduces us to Barbara Novak (Renee Zellweger), a small town girl from Main who has written an international best seller entitled “Down With Love”. In her sexually liberating book, Novak encourages females to leave love out of the relationship – to treat men like they treat women; as a casual sex toy – and in the meantime, women will be able to get ahead in the business world just like their male counterparts have.

Enter Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor), a star reporter for KNOW Magazine who gets the inside scoop on his stories by getting inside the pants of his female subjects and acquaintances. Catcher is a man’s man, a playboy’s playboy and his editor, Peter MacMannus (David Hyde Pierce in the ambiguously gay Tony Randall role), demands that he get a story with the hottest author walking the planet, Barbara Novak. However, Catcher keeps blowing off their interview so he can have multiple rendezvous with the airline stewardesses that are in his little black book.

All that changes when Catcher finally gets a look at Barbara, he decides that he’d like to find out what she’s made of – and expose her as the fraud she is, as no woman could turn down what he has to offer and not fall in love with him. If he’s able to do this, he’ll prove out his theory that there’s no such thing as a Playgirl, there are only Playboy’s. In order to get closer to her, Catcher disguises himself as a down-to-earth, sexually restrained astronaut that no woman could resist and in the same vein as the aforementioned 50’s/60’s sexually-charged (and very restrained) romps, a huge argument must ensue before true love can prevail.

The slightly anemic script from Eve Ahlert and Dennis Drake (of Legally Blonde 2 “fame”) is full of wink-wink, nudge-nudge, double-entendres that manage to evoke not much more than a chuckle and even contains one split-screen moment (reminiscent of the many split-screen telephone conversations between Hudson and Day) that relies on sight gags right out of the Austin Powers films. However, you have to hand it to director Peyton Reed and his crew, as they have created a clever retro-kitsch film that is full of bright and bold colors, gorgeous outfits and wardrobe, throwback furnishings, fake Manhattan backdrops, and even a small cameo by Tony Randall himself.

Zellweger starts out a little iffy, but really hones in her character within the first few scenes of the film, while McGregor seems much more comfortable in his Rat Pack-ish, Playboy persona. David Hyde Pierce is a perfect fit for the hence-to-be-known-as “Tony Randall role” and has really good chemistry with McGregor in their multiple back-and-forth exchanges. All in all, the main players are a fine group and really manage to portray the playfulness and lightheartedness needed to pull off a film like Down With Love.

Down With Love succeeds as something off the beaten path, as it does a decent job of recreating a romantic comedy from a much more innocent time and adding a bit more innuendo and double-entendre than was allowed decades ago. In my opinion, it doesn’t hit on all cylinders and suffers from a few too many dead spots, but it’s a nice, lighthearted tribute to a much more innocent time and is worth a rental at the very least.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A-/ Bonus B-

Down With Love gets a fine-tuned anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 that attempts to recreate the CinemaScope ratios of old. Not only does the team responsible for the film recreate the old school scope on Down With Love, they also do a fine job of mimicking the bright and radiant Technicolor palettes, with a film that is so colorful and beaming it’s almost cartoonish.

The film was finely detailed and sharp – just as one would expect from a Fox title – and it maintains a very fine level of specificity throughout. As mentioned before, the film contained a marvelously vivid and cheerful palette that mimics the films of the period and Fox handles the multifaceted palette quite well. For the most part, the film remains properly balanced and saturated, but there were times where it was just a bit too much and slightly overdone – so much so that it seemed to smear in some areas. It was nothing overtly distracting, but enough to be noted – even so, highly unusual for a Fox title. Fleshtones were accurate, while black levels were appropriately deep and bold. Shadow detail and delineation were more than acceptable and allowed Down With Love to remain very three-dimensional and film-like.

There were a few flaws noted in Fox’s transfer, as shimmer was somewhat problematic in some of the higher contrasted areas and on some of the more shiny surfaces. Edge enhancement was noted, but held at bay quite nicely and some ever-so-slight artifacting was noted as well. Grain, as well as print flakes and flecks, were in very short supply and when it was all said and done, Down With Love was another in a long line of fine looking outings from Fox Home Video.

Down With Love is a very bright and cheery flick and Fox’s transfer only serves to reinforce that fact. As usual, job well done save for a couple of flaws here and there. Fox has gotten so good at this stuff, it’s scary.

Fox’s Down With Love comes homes to DVD in a well done and surprisingly immersive Dolby Digital 5.1 transfer. While the vast majority of the film was focused on dialogue, that didn’t keep Fox from using the effects and ambient moments to great effect.

The front surrounds contain plenty of directional effects and split dialogue, while the rear surrounds jump in on the action from time to time by creating some general ambience in the form of background noise in crowded restaurants, the comforting sounds of a small thunderstorm, whirring blades on a hovering helicopter, and general reinforcement for the film’s score. Speaking of score, Fox’s playful and appropriate score sounds really nice in their 5.1 mix, with crisply authored high-end and very taut, reverberating lows. Dialogue in the film was always crisp and distinct and never showed any signs of harshness, edginess, or distortion.

Down With Love is given a pretty expansive and wide soundstage to play in and Fox has authored the mix with some obvious t-l-c. Other audio tracks on the Down With Love DVD include a Dolby Digital 2.0 track in Spanish and French, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.

While the film didn’t garner Fox’s full “Special Edition” treatment, you’d be hard pressed to figure it out from the supplements included on the disc, as the only thing that seems to be missing is a “Special Edition” banner on the cover in place of the “Widescreen Edition” banner that’s included. Fox offers fans quite an offering of fluffy and promotional extras that give us a nice overview of what it was like making the film.

First and foremost is an Audio Commentary with Director Peyton Reed and as he did for Bring It On, he gives another really entertaining and informative commentary. His love for this project, as well as how much fun he had doing it are covered in great detail here and Reed makes it hard for us not to want to listen to what he has to say. He talks about how he prepared for the film by studying 60’s sex comedies, the style he wanted to accomplish through the sets/wardrobe/score, casting and how much he enjoyed working with everyone, anecdotes from the set, and so on. Reed delivers another great commentary that fans of the film, its principals, or Reed will really enjoy.

”Here’s To Love” – Original Network TV Performance (3:32) is next and it’s nothing more than a catchy performance video of the “Here’s To Love” musical number performed by Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger. The video is presented in a fullframe presentation and Dolby Digital 2.0.

Down With Love Deleted Scenes are next and included are five deleted scenes (“23 – Barbara’s Photo Shoot”, “79 – Vikki Pitches Books”, “83 – Central Park”, and “102/104 – Vikki and Peter Prepare for the Big Night”) that can be viewed with or without commentary from director Peyton Reed. The commentary is pretty generic and Reed does little more than explaining what’s happening on the screen. Running a little under 5-minutes in total, these scenes wouldn’t have added much to an already simplistic story. Good to have, but nothing earth-shattering or ground-breaking. Fox has also included a –PLAY ALL- feature here as well.

Next up is ”Guess My Game” featuring Celebrity Mystery Guest Barbara Novak – Original Network Broadcast (1:10). This is a full-frame, full-length presentation of the TV talk show that Zellweger’s character was featured on during the film.

The Down With Love Hair and Wardrobe Tests should be rather self-explanatory, as we get 65-seconds worth of snippets of all the main characters in different outfits and pieces that could potentially be used in the film.

Next is the Down With Love Blooper Reel (6:50) – a very entertaining clip of bloopers from the set featuring all of the main characters. Good stuff and it’s easy to see the group had a great time making this film. Light and fluffy, but lots of fun to check out – seriously.

The Down With Love Documentaries section is “loaded” down with six mini-documentaries inside of it. Included are “On Location with Down With Love” (about the digitally enhanced matted backgrounds used in the film), “Creating the World of Down With Love” (about the recreation of the 60’s style used in the film), “The Costumes of Down With Love” (about the magnificent 60’s wardrobe), “The Swingin’ Sounds of Down With Love” (covering Marc Shaiman’s period score), “Down With Love, Up with Tony Randall” (the fun the cast had with Tony Randall on the set), and “Down With Love - Split Decisions” (about the split-screen scenes used in the film and how they were achieved). By using Fox’s –PLAY ALL- feature, the supplement in total runs slightly over 16-minutes with the average running time of each individual effort being somewhere in the neighborhood of 2-3 minutes. The titles of the individual documentaries should give you a god indication of what’s included and while informative the documentaries themselves are simply too short to be completely engaging.

The HBO Special (12:34), is … you guessed it … the same promotional fluff you’ve seen on HBO (and DVD) for years now. We learn about the story, the film, the actors, the sets/wardrobe/music, and how great everyone was. This extra is as brisk and fluffy as the film itself and is worth a look at least once. However, it’s definitely nothing you haven’t seen a million times over already.

Finishing off the film’s supplements are a Down With Love Testimonial (0:36), a bogus testimonial singing the praises a Barbara Novak “Now” girl who has climbed the corporate ladder, and a Music Promo for the film’s soundtrack.

Ultimately, Down With Love was a slight disappointment considering all the talent in front of - and behind - the camera. Even so, it gets points for being something out of the ordinary and being entertaining enough to, at the very least, holding your interest. It’s a light and breezy way to blow an afternoon with your significant other, although I’d only recommend a blind purchase for hardcore fans of the film or its principals. Fox’s DVD is pretty loaded from a supplements standpoint – especially considering it doesn’t carry an official “Special Edition” banner - and fans have every reason to be elated with its contents.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.6551 Stars Number of Votes: 29
12 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.