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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Alex & Emma
Alex & Emma
Warner Bros. // PG-13 // December 23, 2003
List Price: $27.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Don Houston | posted November 29, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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Movie: Romantic comedies are perhaps the most difficult genre of movie to make properly. The reasons vary but they range from finding leads that have chemistry, a director who understands the need for balance between the humor and the romance, and a writer that knows how to write for both qualities with dialogue that doesn't come off as lame. Out of all the romantic comedies I've watched in the last forty of so years, I think maybe a handful were entertaining enough in both aspects that I'd recommend them without hesitation. To be blunt, the primary reason such movies exist appears to be as date movies or "chick flicks" and succumb to a the theory of lowest common denominator. By that, I mean that the creative talents seem to play to the low end of potential audience, knowing such people are typically less critical (maybe because we're drinking beer while we watch) and more willing to shell out money to try and get lucky that night. Sadly, a movie released earlier this year, Alex & Emma, is exactly what you'd expect it to be; fairly mundane.

The movie started off with the premise of a writer, Alex Sheldon (Luke Wilson), who is in debt to his bookie for a hundred grand. After a suitable demonstration about what will happen to him if he doesn't pay off his debt in exactly 30 days, he renews his attempt to finish his sophomore novel, for which he'll receive a contractual payment of $125,000 from his publisher (played in a cameo role by Rob Reiner, the movie's director). His computer destroyed by the bookie's thugs, Alex hires a prissy stenographer, Emma Dinsmore (Kate Hudson), to type up his novel as he dictates. The novel is about a guy in the 1920's who falls for a rich heiress, Polina Delacroix (Sophie Marceau), but doesn't have the means with which to sustain the relationship. As Alex dictates the novel, Emma makes editorial comments and argues about all sorts of points regarding his characters and their development. The sparring between the two makes for the tension that is supposed to sustain the movie.

Well, the problem the movie faces starts early in that the humor is almost always so subtle that the crowds this appears to be designed for will not care about what happens between the couple. In short, most people probably would just as soon the bookie kills Alex and Emma goes off to finding some decent guy. The characters were written into a corner very early here and the back and forth nature between the two fell short because of it. Further, the idea of going between the book versions of the characters and their real life counterparts may have sounded good in theory but was distracting in practice. I think with a bit better writing, the story could've worked had they stuck to the narrative without ever seeing the imaginary characters yet that was the primary focus of the show (the written characters instead of the author/stenographer).

So, while I've heard this called the worst movie ever made and other such negative things, I think it was worth a rating of Rent It to any couples wanting to see Hudson and Wilson, two of the shining stars of Hollywood at this time, in a flawed chick flick. Both stars had chemistry together in the writer part of the movie but during the story part the focus seemed so off as to render the whole movie less interesting. Fans of Marceau will want to know that her role was subservient to the couple and barely worth watching (two dimensional characters usually don't appeal to me unless they take off their clothes).

Picture: The picture was presented in anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 ratio color. There was some grain in the darker scenes as well as some mosquito noise at times but the general quality of the picture itself was good. The DVD transfer was solid enough and the flesh tones looked very accurate as did the other colors.

Sound: The audio was presented with a choice of either 5.1 Dolby Digital English or French with closed captions for the hearing impaired as well as French or Spanish subtitles for those who want them. I think the vocals were very clear and crisp with solid music as well. The mixture was well done and except for one or two parts where the vocals were out of synchronization for a moment, this was a good aspect to the show.

Extras: The extras included an audio commentary with Rob Reiner and Luke Wilson (I think Kate Hudson would've made a nice addition to the track) and a trailer. The commentary was often better than the movie itself and it wasn't among the best I've heard over the years. The DVD case was one of those lousy WB cases that felt flimsy.

Final Thoughts: If you're looking to get laid by virtue of seeing a movie that only a woman could like, this may appeal to you as a mid-week rental. I do think there was chemistry between the leads but the material they were stuck with was simply much weaker than they could do much with. I also think Reiner is capable of far better movies than this one so fans of his may want to slug down a few drinks before watching it.

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