Nine out of ten doctors recommend the book How to Lose a Stye in 10 Days.
One of them is lying. So is the other.
A little chemistry can go a long way toward making a potentially dreadful film watchable; fortunately for viewers of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, the two leads have chemistry to spare. Kate Hudson (Almost Famous) plays Andie Anderson, a "How To" writer at Composure magazine whose latest assignment is to pick up a guy, then drive him away using the "classic" mistakes women make in the courtship ritual, like compulsive calling and filling his medicine cabinet with feminine hygiene products. She'll then write up the results of her experiment as advice for what not to do in the early stages of dating. Of course, she has to do all this in ten days, because the magazine goes to print in eleven, and the picture needs a catchy title. Who will be the lucky man? Enter Matthew McConaughey (A Time to Kill) as Benjamin Barry, a successful marketing executive endowed with a huge ego and washboard abs, trying to break out of his usual client list of beer and sporting goods companies by landing the chance to pitch for a huge diamond manufacturer (think DeBeers). Ben's boss ends up agreeing to give Ben the account if he can make a woman fall in love with him—wait for it—in ten days, just in time for to take her to the company's shindig for the diamond client. So obviously Andie ends up hooking Ben, and she works as hard to drive him away as he does to seduce her. Hijinks ensue.
To say that How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days stretches credulity would be like saying Ashton Kutcher's acting could use a little work. We know Ben is good at his job because we're told he is; never mind that his big idea for the diamond campaign—"Frost Yourself"—sounds like something you might yell while stuck in traffic. His boss thinks enough of him to put his firm's future at stake based on his charm. Andie's supposed to be a smart, confident journalist with an Ivy League education, yet she's shocked to find out (more than once) that her editor at Composure would prefer she write about shoes and weight loss tips rather than politics or genocide. Go figure. In typical romantic comedy fashion, no one asks any questions that could threaten the precarious structure of the plot, no matter how absurd things get.
Yet it doesn't really matter. Hudson and McConaughey make such a charming couple, and play so well off each other, that pretty much anything is forgivable. They pull off fast-paced banter and big, physical comedy with what seems to be genuine affection for each other, which pays off in a big way when Ben takes Andie to meet his family: it's an unexpectedly warm, genuinely touching sequence that gives the picture some much-needed heart. The script gives them a few gems of dialogue, and thankfully stays (mostly) away from toilet humor, which sets the film apart from lesser romcoms released in recent years. Director Donald Petrie has done romantic comedy before, with Mystic Pizza and Miss Congeniality, and his knack for making appealing, populist relationship stories fits well with this material.
In this humble reviewer's opinion, Paramount is leading the way with its audio-visual treatment of catalogue releases, steering clear of noise reduction, edge enhancement, or color boosting, giving us some astoundingly film-like transfers, and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is no exception. Many of the shots are a bit soft, but this is probably the result of intentional filtration during filming to give the movie a glowing, classic feel rather than any error in the transfer (the sharp, vibrant titles superimposed over softer shots back this theory up); regardless, fine detail is not always superb, but every instance of the copious product placement jumps out like never before. The bitrate is high, in the low-30s, and the image appears thick and quite pleasing. I noticed no compression artifacts or mosquito noise. While the audio is generally contained to the front speakers, a scene where Andie and Ben attend a Lakers game really lets the mix come to life, with realistic imaging of crowd noise and a good amount of dynamic range. Dialogue is always clear, although the disc did seem to be mixed a bit low, and I had to raise the volume about 2db over my usual listening level.
Some of the special features are duplicated from the DVD release (Petrie's audio commentary, the deleted scenes, and a Keith Urban music video), but there are a few additions in high definition. The featurette "How to Make a Movie in 2 Years" is a surprisingly engaging 16-minute summary of how the film came about, with comments from producers Linda Obst and Christine Peters, the authors of the book on which the film is based, Michele Alexander and Jeannie Long, and cinematographer John Bailey (The Big Chill). It's unfortunate director Petrie wasn't involved, but the producers offer some interesting anecdotes, and Bailey's theories of how romantic comedies relate to life are insightful. Next up is "Why the Sexes Battle," a forgettable 5-minute deconstruction of the characters from a psychological point of view. Finally, "Girls Night Out" is more interview footage of authors Alexandra and Long relating more to their book than the film.
It won't win any awards or shake up the genre, but the chemistry between its two leads makes How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days an above-average romantic comedy, and Paramount has once again given a catalogue title a fine treatment in high definition.
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