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A Lot Like Love   D+

Touchstone Pictures / Beacon Pictures

Year Released: 2005
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Nigel Cole
Writer: Colin Patrick Lynch
Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Amanda Peet, Kathryn Hahn, Kal Penn, Ali Larter, Taryn Manning, Gabriel Mann, Jeremy Sisto.

Review by Sean O'Connell

Add A Lot Like Love to the list of relationship comedies suffering from Annie Hall envy. Actually, A Lot Like Love is a lot like countless other films that have a free-spirited nonconformist loosening up a workable stiff. Meanwhile, the audience waits an eternity for two beautiful but baffled meant-to-be wanderers to realize they belong together, which we figured out before we stepped foot in the theater.

The story begins seven years ago, rewinding to the exact moment when shy Oliver (Ashton Kutcher) first set his sights on punk hellion Emily (Amanda Peet, never more ravishing). Years pass, and these two fall in and out of each other's orbits. Oliver launches a successful Internet venture (he sells diapers online), Emily discovers a talent for professional photography, and first-time screenwriter Colin Patrick Lynch assembles happenstances, coincidences, and contrived situations to help his destiny-challenged lovers cross paths.

The film's gimmicky time-skipping device jerks the action to and fro. While disruptive, it does allow us to reconnect with bands we haven't listened to since college (Smash Mouth and Third Eye Blind play major roles in the opening scenes).

Peet demands that at least half of Love will work, even if she has to shoulder the familiar material and carry it over multiple rough spots. A gifted comedian, Peet is believably vulnerable, coy, flirtatious, and headstrong. She's countered by a low-key Kutcher, who has difficulty mustering a personality in the bulk of his scenes; his wet-blanket line readings douse any potential spark between them.

Lynch's script fails to unearth original conflicts. He falls head over heels in love with one or two of his jokes, so he goes back to them time and again. Oliver's younger sister (Taryn Manning) has a stale laugh line that she actually uses on four separate occasions. It wasn't funny the first time.

One unavoidable inconsistency nagged me about Love. Oliver was Web-savvy enough to launch a successful Internet site before the Dot Bomb destroyed most of Silicon Valley. Don't you think he would have been able to figure out how to stay in touch with Emily? Worlds don't separate these two. He's in San Francisco and she's in Los Angeles. If I remember correctly, e-mail existed in 2002. Had these two just Googled each other from time to time, A Lot Like Love could have been a whole lot shorter and would have made a lot more sense.

Review published 04.20.2005.

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