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Prinze & Stiles deserve better than too cute romantic comedy
on 10 January 2005
"Down to You" is a romantic comedy that insists on substituting style for substance at key moments in the proceedings. It wants to take a cute approach to a serious relationship, as Al (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) and Imogen (Julia Stiles) do a retroactive post mortem on their relationship. The problem, as they both confide to the audience, is that they were too young when they met each other, implying that if only the timing was right the relationship would be right. The tagline for this film was "A new comedy about giving first love a second chance," which goes beyond the boundaries of either description or foreshadowing enough to warrant losing a star on the rating on that basis alone.
Al and Imogen meet at a bar and click immediately, which seems to be more of a surprise to him than to her. She has sworn off dating so can enjoy her college experience, but she is not about to let a rule make her pass on Al who she considers to be cute. He has some strange dorm friends (Selma Blair, Shawn Hatosy, Zak Orth and Rosario Dawson) who want him to swear off on Imogen, but he manages to ignore them most of the time. Meanwhile, the damage caused by his famous chef father (Henry Winkler in a nice turn, with Lucy Arnaz as his wife) does not seem to be too bad since he has the family cooking gene, but we have to wait a long time in this movie for him to grow up enough to be almost good enough for her.
Director-writer Kris Isacsson has two personable performers but never really does right by them. She is the more serious of the pair (it will be a long time before Stiles is ever the flighty one in a romantic comedy; it takes a Jason Bourne to get her to back down in a film), and he never really succeeds in bridging the gap to the point where we believe these two have a real chance. Al is just not in her league. The problem is that ultimately this is not a cute film about a serious relationship but a cute film about a cute relationship, and that can be fraught with danger, especially when songs get used to cover up the problems. When the character of Monk in this film becomes the voice of reason, you know the train has left the tracks.