Paramount // 2003 // 116 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Jim Thomas // August 25th, 2009
One of them is lying. So is the other.
Exactly why Paramount decided to double dip its 2003 sorta-hit How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days at this particular juncture is anybody's guess; for all we know, they looked at this summer's slate and figured that people who had just watched a current romantic comedy would be in dire need of a palate-cleanser. In any event, here comes How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days: Deluxe Edition. Is it a keeper, or should we give its penis a silly name and drag it to a Celine Dion concert?
Andie Anderson (Kate Hudson, Almost Famous) works for Composure magazine (think Cosmopolitan). She doesn't find her column, "How to..." ("How to Feng Shui Your Apartment," "How to Get Out of a Ticket," etc.) particularly challenging, and yearns to move on to more respectable journalism. Alas, she instead finds herself assigned to write "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days." Andie tells her boss Lana (Bebe Neuwirth, Malice) that, to write more freely and creatively, she'll date a man and do all the wrong things women tend to do in relationships, and record her experiences for the article.
Advertising executive Benjamin Barry (Matthew McConaughey, Contact) is doing a great job selling beer and the like, but he wants to move up to more high-priced clients. He's even gone so far as to identify a potential client for his firm, a high-end diamond retailer, but his boss Philip (Robert Klein, Two Weeks Notice thinks that diamonds are best suited for women, due to the link between diamonds and love. Ben counters that a man can understand the allure of love and diamonds as well as any woman, and to prove it, he'll find a woman, get her to fall in love with him, and bring her to the company ball -- in ten days -- as his date. If she is in love with him, he gets the diamond account.
Things get interesting when the two women who also want the diamond account meet Andie and Lana, with Lana gushing about Andie's new assignment. Seeing a perfect opportunity to torpedo Ben, they steer him towards Andie as the object of Ben's bet. So, can Andie drive Ben off, or will Ben's charm win the day -- or, gosh darn it, will these two crazy kids somehow make it work?
The plot itself is workmanlike -- the two meet, there's an extended stretch in which both attempt to achieve their nefarious ends, they unexpectedly find Twue Wuv, the truth is revealed, ugly breakup, and love conquers all in the end. Don't get me wrong -- the movie's not that bad -- but then again, it's not particularly good, either.
In the commentary track, director Douglas Petrie talks about all of the different things they did to make the characters likable -- after all, the entire plot revolves around their inherently cruel duplicity towards one another. However, that's the hurdle the movie never quite manages to clear. The two leads are perfectly willing to toy with someone else's emotions to advance their own careers -- and we're supposed to root for them? The attractiveness of the leads helps a bit, but that's still a bit much. Andie, from the very first date, does hideously cruel things to Ben -- it never really occurs to her to seriously ask why someone who's been dating her less than a week would put up with her crap. Ben, on the other hand, witnesses Andie behaving in a manner that can only be described as Sybil-icious, yet he soldiers on, so committed to winning his dream account that he will risk dating a borderline psychotic. The answer, of course, is that they both must continue for the plot to move forward to Twue Wuv. When the respective charades come tumbling down, things get ugly. Seriously ugly. Ugly in a public manner and setting, ugly in a way that turns people into instantly unemployed pariahs. Here, though, both get what they think they want -- because (and you can see this one coming from the opening credits) only then can they discover what they really want. (That would be Twue Wuv, in case you were wondering.)
Video is crisp and vibrant despite a wide variety of lighting conditions; similarly, the 5.1 surround mix boasts clear dialogue in a lot of difficult situations. There's not much here to warrant the "Deluxe Edition" appellation; it does sound better than "Another Edition." Only a few extras return from the earlier release, including the commentary track with director Donald Petrie. The commentary is OK; Petrie offers a lot of information about the shoot, but he really needs someone to talk with. Also retained is a set of deleted scenes (with commentary from Petrie), an instantly forgettable video for Keith Urban's "Somebody Like You." New for this release are "How to Make a Movie in Two Years" (a bland making-of short), "Girls Night Out" (sort of an interview with Michele Alexander and Jeannie Long, who wrote the original book), and "The Battle of the Sexes," a terminally lame bit in which two psychologists try to explain the wooing process, with various scenes from the film playing in the background. The two never quite seem to grasp that Andie is not trying to woo, but to drive off, which makes me fervently hope that neither are seeing patients. Interestingly, none of these extras features any of the actors. In short, there's nothing here that remotely warrants upgrading from the previous release.
Vapid as the plot is, there's no denying that the performances soar far above the material. McConaughey's natural amiability sets him in good stead for the caddish Ben, and Kate Hudson flings herself into the role of Andie with relish. The two have great chemistry, particularly when Andie is not acting like a lunatic -- their one-word meet cute is undeniably charming. The supporting cast is strong as well. Bebe Neuwirth brings her quirky charm to the role of Andie's boss, who really would have no compunctions about torturing Ben -- or anyone else, for that matter -- for a story. Robert Klein adds surprising warmth to the proceedings as Ben's boss; his brief scene with Andie at the climactic party is simple, but is perhaps the only emotionally true scene in the movie. (I'm tempted to include the sequence at Ben's parents, but that was all part of Ben's plan -- and let's pause to consider that he would turn his own family into unwitting accomplices.)
The producers apparently looked at How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days as a challenge -- just how amoral could they make the leads and still turn a profit. The movie is full of scenes that work well in isolation; it's only when they are tied together that things fall apart. Given the quality of the acting, direction, and cinematography, it's somewhat disheartening to think what How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days could have been with a better script -- or perhaps just nicer characters.
Guilty, but the sentence is suspended due to the actors' good behavior.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* Music Video
* Official Site