The DVD Journal | Quick Reviews: Alex & Emma
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Alex & Emma

When the best thing you can say about a movie is that it wasn't as bad as you were expecting, you can safely assume two things: 1) The stars of said movie won't need to be worrying about their acceptance speeches come Oscar-time and 2) it's more than likely a studio-produced romantic comedy. Such is the case with Alex & Emma (2003), Warner Bros.' bland, harmless update of Paris When It Sizzles (1964), which concerns Alex Sheldon (Luke Wilson), a novelist whose gambling debts and writer's block join forces to put his life in danger: Unless he can produce his next book within 30 days (thus securing the advance promised to him by his publisher), he's dead meat. Desperate and computerless (the thugs he owes money to torch his laptop), Alex hires prim stenographer Emma Dinsmore (Kate Hudson) to take dictation… and, of course, she eventually ends up taking his heart, too. Both Wilson and Hudson have alter egos within Alex's Great Gatsby-esque book, which plays out on screen as Alex narrates the action to Emma. Wilson plays the novel's hero, Adam Shipley, a poor-but-handsome tutor who falls in love with his gorgeous, wealthy employer, Polina Delacroix (Sophie Marceau), and Hudson is the Delacroix family's nanny/cook/maid, a character who tries on a variety of ethnicities and names before Alex decides that she's the lovely, gentle American Anna. As Alex and Emma get closer in "real," life, so do Adam and Anna; it is only both men's obsession with Polina that stands in their way. Not that there's ever any question of where Alex & Emma is going or how it's going to end up — this is a Hollywood romantic comedy directed by Rob Reiner, after all. It's just a shame that the movie doesn't have more spark. The book-within-a movie concept is at least a little different, and Hudson and Wilson get along fine together, but he's too mild to pull off a mainstream romantic lead, and she was never meant to play "mousy." Ultimately, the most interesting thing about the film is that it was based on a true incident in author Fyodor Dostoevsky's life — though it's probably safe to say that the Russian writer and his stenographer never took a day off to play in Boston's Public Garden. Warner's DVD offers a strong, clean anamorphic transfer (1.85:1), clear English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (a French 5.1 track and English, French, and Spanish subtitles are also available), a genial commentary by Reiner and Wilson, and the theatrical trailer. Snap-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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