A Lot Like Love

on April 22, 2005 by Wade Major
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The greatest surprise awaiting audiences lured to the latest Ashton Kutcher romantic comedy -- his second in as many months -- will be the discovery that "A Lot Like Love" really isn't a romantic comedy at all, but a straightforward romance with a few dollops of intermittent humor. Though hardly memorable, it's a sweet enough effort that gives both Kutcher and leading lady Amanda Peet a rare chance to stretch beyond the facile posing, mugging and comedic zingers with which they've typically been saddled. Unfortunately, thanks to Touchstone's misguided misrepresentation of the picture as yet another goofball Kutcher vehicle, more discriminating audiences probably won't even give it a chance.

Rather obviously parroting the structure of "When Harry Met Sally," first-time screenwriter Colin Patrick Lynch's script charts the evolution of a love-at-first-sight romance over seven years of false-starts and happenstance meetings. When Oliver "Ollie" Martin (Kutcher) and Emily Friehl (Peet) first meet, it's for a spontaneous, seemingly meaningless shag in an airplane lavatory. She's a manipulative, nihilistic punk; he's an unkempt, unemployed college grad. Sparks sputter rather than fly, but the two make a connection that helps jump-start things when they meet again several years later. Emily, now a mature, un-punked aspiring L.A. actress, seems finally able to open her heart, particularly to a more confident, career-minded Oliver clearly still smitten with her. If only that career-mindedness weren't about to relocate him to San Francisco where he intends to start an internet diaper business.

As years and months pass by, several more such ill-timed encounters ensue before the kids are finally able to throw caution to the proverbial wind and let true love sweep them away.

Happily ever after.

The end.

Cloying and formulaic as that may sound -- and it is -- Peet and Kutcher are simply too appealing to dismiss. Even when saddled with dialogue which, by rights, should be intolerably inane, they generate a chemistry that somehow makes it bearable, even charming. Director Nigel Cole ("Saving Grace" and "Calendar Girls") deserves some credit in this regard -- like his stars, he is clearly capable of better work. That the three of them are able to quite nearly rise above the familiar and limited material may not be enough to overcome the inevitable audience expectation deficit, but it certainly won't do them any long-term harm. Starring Ashton Kutcher, Amanda Peet, Kathryn Hahn, Kal Penn, Ali Larter and Gabriel Mann. Directed by Nigel Cole. Written by Colin Patrick Lynch. Produced by Armyan Bernstein and Kevin Messick. A Buena Vista release. Romance. Rated PG-13 for sexual content, nudity & language. Running time: 107 min

Tags: Ashton Kutcher, Amanda Peet, Kathryn Hahn, Kal Penn, Ali Larter, Gabriel Mann, Nigel Cole, Colin Patrick Lynch, Armyan Berstein, Kevin Messick, Buena Vista, Romance, love story, true love
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