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How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 02/14/07 20:34:11

"Completely works despite itself."
3 stars (Just Average)

I did not have much hope for “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” which looked at first glance to be yet another none-too-bright romantic comedy about two goobers who Fall In Love When They Least Expect It. And while the film sticks fairly close to the formula, it still manages to work; whether by smarts or by sheer luck, here’s a film that manages to fix many of the problems with its genre. (Considering how daft many of the scenes are, I’m guessing it’s sheer luck.)

Kate Hudson stars as Andie Anderson, writer for a women’s magazine and specialist of gal-friendly “how to” columns (“How To Talk Your Way Out of a Ticket,” for example). When one of her co-workers is dumped, Andie’s handed her latest assignment: do all the mistakes her friends do that wind up wrecking a relationship. Or, as the title lets us know, “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.”

Meanwhile, cocky advertising whiz Benjamin Barry (Matthew McConaughey) is so convinced of his knowledge of the opposite sex - and is so desperate to land a very important diamond account - that he makes a bet that he can make any woman fall in love with him in - you guessed it - ten days. And the woman selected to be his target is Andie. The two plans collide, and comedy ensues.

Right there, one romantic comedy problem is fixed. In many pictures (recent examples include “Maid In Manhattan” and “Deliver Us From Eva”), we’re asked to be OK with a lead character’s lying, so much so that when the non-liar finds out about the liar’s schemes, we’re supposed to hope all will be forgiven. In “10 Days,” however, both parties are at fault, so when the movie asks us to root for them to get together, neither one is more or less guilty than the other, and the balance makes it all work out.

Another problem solved is the notion that characters in romantic comedies must be morons who only to wise up to their (or the other lead’s) emotions in the final scenes. Here, Andie and Ben are so busy with their own schemes that they don’t have time to be idiots.

It also helps that Andie and Ben make such a good couple. In many romances, you wouldn’t want to spend any time with the leads, as they’re stupid, irritating, or just plain dull. But here, Hudson and McConaughey not only look good together, their characters are likable enough and compatible enough that you not only hope they get together, you wouldn’t mind inviting them over for a barbeque.

This is important, since the screenwriters realize that while their double-bet premise was good for plenty of laughs, it’s not enough to last a full two hours. And so for the second hour of the film, Andie and Ben become an actual couple, all games aside. These scenes, before the plot kicks back in and forces them to reveal their secrets and have fights and all that formula crap that doesn’t really work, have a pleasant sweetness that’s never forced. In one bit that has the two heading off to Staten Island to meet Ben’s family, the movie becomes all smiles.

After this, it’s back to moments straight out of the ol’ Romantic Comedy Handbook. Fights, regret over letting the other go, and yet another race against time in order for one to confess love to the other. There are zero surprises here, and it’s a bit of a let down to see a film that’s so funny and charming fizzle into standard final act junk. (It also makes no sense that these two would be angry when the truth is revealed; since both are liars, wouldn’t there be some equal appreciation of their individual mind games?)

There are many other problems with this film, most of which involve a terrible subplot that finds two of Ben’s co-workers (Michael Michele and Shalom Harlow) hoping to sabotage the bet in order to get the account for themselves. Not only are these characters played by two models-turned-actresses who couldn’t act their way out of a grade school President’s Day pageant, but the whole plot device feels like an easy out for the writers, a wrench they can throw in the works whenever they run out of fresh ideas for the story. And is it just me, or is advertising executive the go-to career for romantic comedy characters when the writers can’t think of anything better?

That said, “10 Days” is still a delight. Hudson shows a real knack for comedy, and watching her Andie go from sweetheart to “a crack-enhanced Kathie Lee Gifford” makes for some great laughs. McConaughey, meanwhile, lets his own laid-back charisma carry him through, and it’s enough to keep us watching. The two work well together in both the comic scheming and romantic halves of the story, and their chemistry is more than enough to lift this movie out of the formula gutter. “10 Days” may be predictable, but it’s still quite entertaining.

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