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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Alex and Emma
Alex and Emma
Warner Bros. // PG-13 // December 23, 2003
List Price: $27.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted December 11, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:


Director Rob Reiner had a string of genuinely good films ("Stand By Me", "When Harry Met Sally", "Princess Bride", "Misery") and a career that still continues to make him a highly-regarded addition to any project. However, Reiner's recent lows ("Story of Us", "North") continue with "Alex and Emma", a film whose paper-thin plot is barely lived by the presence of a couple of willing actors.

The film opens with author Alex (Luke Wilson) being threatened by a couple of rather intimidating criminals. He's in the hole for $100,000 to loan sharks and the only way that he can repay them is to finish his book and collect the advance. Unable to collect his thoughts on his own, he hires Emma (Kate Hudson), who acts as both muse and co-worker. Obviously, it's not long before he's falling for her and she's trying to help him actually make his sickeningly awful (I mean, just really, really bad) book halfway decent.

The picture skips between Alex and Emma and his two main characters, Adam (also Wilson) and Anna (also Hudson). Meanwhile, Adam is also attracted to Polina (Sophie Marceau), but he has competition in John Shaw (David Paymer). Hudson's character actually switches four times, as the two modern characters try to figure out what would make the best fit for her. This allows Hudson to try and scramble between cartoonish characters - some of which are funny in a sort of Goldie Hawn (Hudson's mother, who Hudson seems to be trying to imitate here at times) way.

That's about all there is to the plot. The two sit around, talk, try to write said awful novel (many scenes of, "I think it should be like this" and "No, it shouldn't!") and go through the eventual - surprise, surprise - moment of arguement where he realizes that he's stupid and has to win her back. If it wasn't for the two leads - Wilson isn't as bland as usual and Hudson is both goofy and charming (they don't have terribly good chemistry with one another, but they're a passable pairing) - this would be terribly boring.

Unfortunately, even with them, it's still consistently somewhat boring. Although the fact that the novel at the film's core would never be bought by anyone (and that fact is not played as a joke), there's other issues with Jeremy Leven's screenplay - not just the fact that it's cliched at times, but that there's simply not enough story (I raised an eyebrow when Hudson's modern character says, "It's so interesting to watch this process unfold!", when stretches of the movie are as not interesting as sitting and watching someone write) to fill out 95 minutes, making the thin plot feel too drawn-out.

Overall, this was harmless fare. A completely standard romantic comedy, there's little about this film that's inspired - there's even little interesting done with the characters from the novel. Hudson and Wilson are fine in their roles, but there's little anyone could do to liven up this thin material.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Alex and Emma" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation is generally quite decent, with the film's pleasant cinematography showing through well here. Sharpness was not remarkable, but considering the film's intentionally slightly soft appearance, definition remained pleasing.

While the picture looked crisp, some other concerns edged into the frame at times. Edge enhancement was never a severe problem, but mild amounts were spotted in a handful of scenes. Compression artifacts were also spotted during a couple of the low-light moments. The print seemed to largely be in great shape, but I did notice a couple of specks. Colors remained well-rendered and attractive, with nice saturation and clarity.

SOUND: "Alex and Emma" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's audio was not particularly ambitious, keeping to a very simple presentation. The surrounds were only lightly involved to reinforce the film's score - they otherwise went silent. Dialogue remained crisp and clear, as did music, but there was nothing very noteworthy about the film's audio.

EXTRAS: The film's theatrical trailer and audio commentary with director Rob Reiner and actor Luke Wilson.

Final Thoughts: The two leads give it a decent shot, but "Alex and Emma" really doesn't succeed very well at either being funny or romantic. Warner Brothers provides a decent DVD, with limited extras and standard audio/video quality. A rental, at most.

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