Alex & Emma is a literary-minded romantic comedy that barely passes English, and flunks chemistry.
It's a movie about a novelist writing a novel about another novelist, so it is chock-full of words. But those words are blathered by the sleep-inducing Luke Wilson and the already-snoring Kate Hudson. The words don't stand a chance.
Wilson stars as Alex Sheldon, a novelist with a gambling problem. When his bookies strong-arm him about a debt, he realizes he has to finish his new book and collect a check by the end of the month. Otherwise, it's so long, Sheldon.
The bookies destroy his laptop. Does he buy another? No. Alex cons a stenographer, someone he can dictate it to, to work for free for a month. Emma (Hudson) may have her reasons for this. She may even be instantly smitten by the bad-boy writer. We'll never know, because she's played by the inexpressive Hudson, sort of a younger, blander Diane Lane and someone who has little of the sparkle or comic energy of her mother, Goldie Hawn.
Alex narrates and Emma transcribes, and we go back to the Gatsby-esque Jazz Age that is the setting of the book to see Adam (Wilson, again) struggle with his conflicted emotions over the rich and high-maintenance Polina (Sophie Marceau) and the other woman of the novel.
That "other woman" keeps changing identities as Alex writes and Emma criticizes through draft after draft. Hudson portrays her through various incarnations which make her Swedish, German, Spanish and American. The actress shows a little life in these parts. But her blank face and narrowed eyes don't give us much to watch or identify with or root for. And the foreign accents, while funny, are pretty bad.
How much longer will Hudson get by on the good will she earned in Almost Famous? She hasn't managed an interesting moment since then. Sure, she was more animated in How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, mostly because she had more interesting co-stars.
Which gets at the film's other big problem - the movie's Alex. Wilson is a low-heat version of his goofy, blond and broken-nosed brother, Owen, who might have made this guy funny. Luke just wears the clothes, checks his profile and reads the lines.
It just proves the old movie adage that "casting is everything."
Roger Moore writes for the Orlando Sentinel, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.
Alex & Emma
Starring Kate Hudson, Luke Wilson
Directed by Rob Reiner
Rated PG-13 (sexual content, some language)
Released by Warner Bros.
Time 96 minutes
Sun Score * 1/2