Alex and Emma

Most romantic comedies are tedious, but Alex and Emma seems even more annoying than most others. This is primarily due to its gimmick, where author Alex Sheldon (Luke Wilson, Old School, The Royal Tennenbaums) expresses all of his emotions through his novel. He is dictating his novel to Emma Dinsmore (Kate Hudson, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, The Four Feathers), a stenographer he hired. He has thirty days to write the novel, because he owes some Cuban bookies a considerable sum of money. If he doesn't pay them back, he dies. Why doesn't he get a typewriter or write on a computer? That's not clear. What is clear is that the novel he is writing is a complete piece of junk.

For director Rob Reiner (The Story of Us, Ghosts of Mississippi) to make this movie work, the story within the story needs to be compelling and cute enough to make people want to care. Alex's novel is grating and annoying, and the film spends too much time with it, which means that it doesn't spend enough time with Alex and Emma. Like all romantic comedies, the two get off to a horrible start. Alex hires Emma from a temp agency and she believes he is out to seduce her (why she agrees to be paid after a month's work of work is complete is also another mystery). Things don't work out quite how Alex expected, since Emma questions nearly all of Alex's decisions for the novel. She talks back to him and demands that he change things that she thinks are stupid. At some point, they begin falling for each other, but of course, neither realize this.

In the novel, Adam Shipley (Wilson) is pining after Polina Delacroix, The World is Not Enough, Fidelity) a rich French woman. He is the tutor of her children, and is competing for her affections with the wealthy John Shaw (David Paymer, Focus, Bartleby). The Emma character (Hudson) emerges as the children's au pair. Her character keeps changing (from Swedish, to English, to Spanish, and finally as Anna, an American, mirroring Alex's changing feelings toward Emma. Alex is of the school where he writes what he knows, so much of what he puts in the novel has roots in his own life. However, Reiner, Jeremy Leven (Crazy as Hell, The Legend of Bagger Vance), Adam Scheinman (Bait, Mickey Blue Eyes) and Andrew Scheinman's (Bait, North) is lacking in nearly all aspects. It seems even worse when compared to the recent Adaptation, a movie that brilliantly showed how an author could (or couldn't) incorporate his life into a written piece of work (heck, even the little seen Hit & Runway did it better).

Wilson and Hudson are likable actors, but their Alex and Emma personas have little chemistry. Reiner shows them as they first meet, then goes through some rapid montages of him dictating to her, then jumps ahead as Alex's conclusion nears, when they begin to realize their feelings. What the heck happened in that three week period? Emma is initially a tad on the feminist empowerment side, and Alex is neurotic and depressed, and it's hard to believe that the writing process is fixing this. Everything is so manufactured to try to make things look cute. They Cuban mafia/stenographer scenario are just plain stupid. To cap it all off, Alex and Emma feels like two bad movies instead of one. Alex and Emma are dumb but tolerable, but this novel is horrible.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 36 minutes, Rated PG-13 for sexual content and strong language.

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