Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Down to You

By Marc Savlov

JANUARY 31, 2000: 

D: Kris Isacsson; with Freddie Prinze Jr., Julia Stiles, Selma Blair, Shawn Hatosy, Zak Orth, Rosario Dawson, Henry Winkler, Lucie Arnaz. (PG-13, 90 min.)

This, then, is the death of the teen comedy. While advance trailers have made Down to You out to be another in the fashionable series of teen comedies that began with the above-average Cruel Intentions and 10 Things I Hate About You, the finished film bears little resemblance to those snide, snarky, witty, and winning films. If anything, the PG-13 Down to You could use a bit more youthful vitriol: As the story of a first love found, soured, and then redeemed, it's all fore and no play. Of course, Prinze Jr. (She's All That) and Stiles (10 Things) have all the onscreen chemistry of milk and orange juice ­ they're easy on the eyes, but you're still going to need a marathon session of tongue-scraping afterward. Told in a series of flashbacks, newcomer Isacsson's film begins with Prinze's college sophomore Al as he muses over the vagaries of young love. "You see them?" he mews, eyeing a liplocked couple in the corner bar. "I was like them once." Ouch. It all goes downhill from there. Al's paramour, as it turns out, is Stiles' freshman Imogen; the pair meet, drink, and tumble into a relationship seemingly overnight, though, as per the rules, it's three months before the lovemaking actually begins (the film veers from teen reality so often it's almost a fractured fairy tale). Al, saddled with not only a quirky new relationship but also with Henry Winkler as his cooking-show dad, looks dazed most of the time, as if he's wondering how he slipped from I Know What You Did Last Summer to this, clearly concerned about his future career options. Stiles, while she has an unusually radiant charm, seems oddly out of place as well, though I'm betting much of her character's fidgetiness comes from having to mouth some of the worst teen dialogue to curdle ears since Scott Baio's turn in Joy Sticks. And while Isacsson (who also wrote the script) tries to up the ante by peppering his satellite characters with "wacky" professions and banter (Al's best friend is an overweight, period-drama porno star), the humor is forced and dreadfully unfunny. It's not just a matter of mismatched chemistry, though. Down to You fails to achieve any sort of incendiary romance between its characters, a deadly mistake in a film that purports to tell the true tale of teen love. As I recall it, the cover of a Cosmopolitan magazine could inspire paroxysms of misplaced lust, and the real deal was ever that much more combustible. Down to You offers no such rampant hormonal overdrive, and the confusion it mistakes for true soul-searching is about as realistic a look at the politics of youthful attraction as one of those "Did somebody say McDonald's?" commercials is a look at mainstream American family values. Did somebody say McCheese?

0 Stars


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