"The Accidental Husband" is looking to perch comfortably on a fluffy, soft cushion of predictable romantic comedy machinations. This is not a taxing picture, settling on a checklist of routine comedy ideas and performance speeds that were established eons ago. It appears all that's truly missing is a healthy chunk of charisma.
When controversial radio relationship talk show host Dr. Emma Lloyd (Uma Thurman) convinces fireman Patrick Sullivan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) girlfriend to break it off on the air, the blue-collar New Yorker isn't going to take the humiliating rejection lying down. With the help of some clever internet hacking, Sullivan manipulates a marriage certificate to Lloyd as a gag, only to find the high-strung host horrified with this hiccup in her love life. Petitioning Sullivan for an annulment, Lloyd finds his brutish, spontaneous ways exciting, putting her more traditional pairing with bookish Richard (Colin Firth) at risk.
Director Griffin Dunne isn't the right cinematic captain to bring "Accidental Husband" to life. Fighting upstream with a laborious, contrived script, Dunne spends most of the picture trying to make the ill-formed pieces fit, staging slapstick in a workmanlike fashion and placing the melodrama in a sleeper hold. The film is hinged on unapologetic formula, looking to enchant the viewer through the act of repetition, but the writing isn't smart enough to wipe the dust off the plot. Instead, "Husband" is a series of lethargic character interactions and recognizable twists of fate, and Dunne doesn't seem to care.
Saving the film to a minuscule degree are the lively performances. Thurman and Morgan share a likeable chemistry as the unlikely pair, with both actors breathlessly hamming it up in their exaggerated roles. It's an amusing overextension of reaction, especially from Thurman, who buzzes around the film with disarming bridal anxiety. Thurman is a gifted comedienne, she just needs a better agent. Morgan beefs up the "Noo Yawk" role with faint entertainment value, but the performances are rarely grounded when the actors share the frame, pounding the script for any droplet of screen magic available. "Husband" never struck me as a crucial story to tell while watching the picture, but the actors instill the film with a few moments of oxygen. Their efforts are welcomed.
Firth? He could play the uptight doofus role in his sleep.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1 aspect ratio), "Husband" seems uncomfortable on DVD. Glazed with an amber hue to infuse some warmth into the film, the saturation appears quite severe, rendering skintones orange. EE issues are also a problem, pulling the detail out of the experience. Black levels aren't harsh, but hardly encouraging. Color levels show the same inspiration.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix is minimal work, sticking with an elementary separation of dialogue and soundtrack selection. Surrounds are rarely engaged outside of the pop songs, which sound thin and unconvincing. The radio sequences represent the clearest mood of the film, with generous processed atmosphere contrasting the concerns of the real world and the invented drama of the air.
English subtitles are included.
"Matters of the Heart" (20:54) is the making-of featurette for the film, using interviews with cast and crew to illuminate the creative process. While standard-issue promotional material, Thurman actually puts forth some effort here, explaining her involvement with material, which dates back nearly a decade. Obviously, most of the this is a happy time tea party where everyone is great and everything is wonderful, but there are moments of honest reflection and on-set energy that's compelling enough.
A Theatrical Trailer has not been included.
When the sludgy plot turns take their rightful place in the third act push to the finish line, "Husband" falls unconscious; the picture assumes this great love affair between two strangers is holding an undeniable pull that tenderly examines the needs of the human heart. The script also rolls through a series of moldy misunderstandings, leading to a tiring, conventional wedding day conclusion of insufferable developments. Of course, many romantic films have sprinted to the finish line in the same fashion, but what separates "Accidental Husband" from this long, cherished list of classics? A palpable attempt at invention.