Back Add a Comment Share:
Facebook Button
It’s amazing how some ideas come about in Hollywood. What seems like a ridiculous concept for a film to most audience members is given the royal thumbs up by the powers that be during the development stages. Sure, studios are bound to make the odd stupid decision or green-light a project that everyone else thinks is destined to fail, but when you approve a story seemingly on the back of two young stars it’s only a matter of time before the critical backlash begins. So, let it begin.

Alex & Emma
Movie
The film in question, Alex & Emma, is just your run-of-the-mill rom-com, designed for an easy 90-minutes of viewing on a lazy Sunday afternoon. But the problem is you’ll probably end up falling asleep on the couch. All the signs point to a boring disaster of a romantic comedy. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck; if it looks like a crappy romance with nothing new on offer then it’s a crappy romance that’ll take 90-minutes of your life which you will never get back.

The stars who somehow decided to jump on board with no fear for their professional credibility, Kate Hudson and Luke Wilson, must look back on this one and realise it was nothing more than an easy paycheck. Hudson plays Emma Dinsmore (Dinsmore? Many will wish she did more), a stenographer who is hired by novelist Alex Sheldon (Wilson) to churn out the words he dictates for his latest novel. Why can’t Alex type it himself, you ask? Well, there’s the hook. Alex has somehow gotten himself into serious debt with a nasty bunch of Cubans, who torch his laptop and tell him he’s got 30 days to pay or else. Alex needs to write the book so his publisher can give him the money he needs to get square. Quaint, isn’t it?

So with the pair now together the rest of the film is mere paint-by-numbers. They begin arguing with each other about the book, telegraphing the fact that the pair will eventually grow to like one another over the course of the film, falling in love at the opportune moment. The narrative itself is at least slightly creative, with Alex and Emma playing roles in the writer’s story as we switch between the real life story and that of the novel. It’s all well and good having two storylines side by side featuring your young stars, but when neither of them are interesting at all you’re well past entertaining your audience.

Director Rob Reiner has proven he is better than this. With hits such as This Is Spinal Tap and When Harry Met Sally under his belt you’d think a man with his experience wouldn’t sell out to such a lackluster screenplay. Screenwriter William Goldman is one keen admirer of his work, and if he ever publishes another of his sensational books you can rest assured he’ll have a chapter on the failure of this film, no doubt.

Alex & Emma
Even the lead pair pretty much phone in their performances with an obvious lack of effort. Kate Hudson puts on a few different accents and looks like she’s having a little fun being silly for an hour or so but the black hole she fell in after Almost Famous just keeps getting deeper. Penny Lane was a masterstroke, so by starring in films like this she’s making it look like a fluke. The same goes for Wilson, too, who now has to work hard not be pigeon-holed as the doe-eyes everyman he’s been destined to play for years. Only time will tell whether either of them can land much more creative roles than this film has to offer.

Some may say that romantic comedies aren’t meant to break new ground and are merely there to give us to destined lovers who fall for each other over the course of the film. But why can’t romances be exciting, different and challenging? We’ve seen the likes of Punch-Drunk Love, Dopamine and All The Real Girls come out of cinemas this past year or so, which makes a film such as Alex & Emma seem like a complete waste of time. Think about the concept of writing a book and tell me straight how excited you’d be if you got to watch someone write it. Not very much? Thought so.

Video
For all its shortcomings as a film, the DVD certainly looks terrific. The 1.85:1 transfer manages to give us the best out of the two prominent locations in the film; Alex’s apartment and the streets of the 1920s. With two distinct colour palettes to play with it become clear that this is a very vibrant and transfer, getting the most out of the colours on offer and a lack of any aliasing or shimmer for the most part. The sharpness isn’t quite up to what we’re used to from most new releases but this was more an aesthetic choice on behalf of Reiner and his team, one would think.

Grain creeps in every now and then but none of it is at all distracting. You’ll find the majority of the grain comes in during the novel sequences where things become a little easier to pick among the brighter colours. So at least the transfer gives you some pretty pictures to look at while being bored to death with the lack of action on screen.

Audio
There’s very little to report on this Dolby Digital 5.1 track mainly due to the subject matter. A bloke writing a book with a typist doesn’t really lend itself to anything special from the surround department, so for the most part they take the day off. Occasionally you may hear the odd ambient sound or effect coming from one of the rears but this is the exception rather than the rule on this disc.

Marc Shaiman provides the score, and it’s fair to say that this isn’t his most challenging of orchestral arrangements going around even though there are two distinct styles to play with here. The music is positioned mainly in the front speakers again with a little help from the rears on occasion. The subwoofer gets no action whatsoever, so be sure to treat it with an action flick on your player’s next run.

Alex & Emma
Extras
Oh joy! A theatrical trailer is included which does nothing to suggest audiences would’ve been excited at the prospect of seeing this one in cinemas. The only other extra on offer is an audio commentary with Reiner and Wilson, which is actually a hell of a lot more entertaining than the film itself. They discuss a range of issues concerning the production, such as the origin of the names of the Cuban gangsters and how Kate Hudson and Wilson became an on-screen duo. Thankfully this is an entertaining commentary track, though I’m not sure how many are going to want to listen to it after they’ve seen the film.

Overall
If you’re looking to bore yourself silly then this is the movie for you. It’s a shame that below-par romantic comedies are still acceptable purely on the basis of the genre alone. Hopefully a few more turkeys like Alex & Emma will put paid to sub-standard rom-coms and give writers the motivation to give us something a lot more creative and entertaining. The video transfer holds up Roadshow’s great reputation for quality transfers, while the audio and extras are pretty average. Kate Hudson fans might find some value here, but the rest of you are better off steering well clear of this one.


Links: