- The Washington Times - Friday, March 30, 2001

one and one-half stars

"Sooner or later were all old cows," laments the heroine of "Someone Like You," a romantic comedy that needs to cling for dear life to the appeal of its designated young bull, the Australian actor Hugh Jackman.
Partially camouflaged last summer as Wolverine in "X-Men," Mr. Jackman gets to adorn the lackluster "Someone," derived from a novel titled "Animal Husbandry," while emerging in his own enormously agreeable face and admirably fit physique.
It remains to be seen whether his easygoing magnetism can save this trifling little doggie of an entertainment, but its always edifying to watch a stellar personality on the threshold of a breakthrough.
Ostensibly, the movie is contrived to showcase Ashley Judd in her first outing as a romantic-comedy heroine. Undeniably one of the prettiest heifers recently attracted to the Hollywood pasture, she has sleepwalked through a succession of thrillers, notably the ludicrous hit "Double Jeopardy." Now she blunders her way into a genre that ought to be more flattering and secure.
The problem, as always, is her amateurish skill level, which Hollywood patrons seem determined to ignore and deny. Yet "Someone Like You" reveals Miss Judds awkwardness with things that are catnip for humorous and knowing actresses, from playing a little drunk to playing a little smitten and a little heartbroken. Its as if we were watching Miss Judd botch a Mary Tyler Moore audition.
One of these days, an impatient and probably older director may get fed up with Miss Judds inadequacies. The relatively young director of "Someone Like You," Tony Goldwyn, continues the fond pretense that nothing is amiss.
Miss Judd plays Jane Goodale, a hapless heroine despite her college education. She works as a talent coordinator for Diane Rogers (Ellen Barkin), the star of a TV talk show. Jane falls for a new producer, Greg Kinnear as Ray Brown. When he jilts her soon after they become engaged and Jane has abandoned her apartment, shes left at once crushed and homeless.
Mr. Jackman as Eddie, the bemused office stud, could use a roomie. Jane moves into his loft and learns that Eddie, while promiscuous and irresistible to women, can be a brick of a consort once the right needy girl comes along.
Miss Barkin seems to run a disgracefully loose and incestuous shop. A good deal of bogus grief might be spared Jane if the boss frowned on dating among staff members, not to mention idle sex talk in the elevators. Its such a small world in the Diane Rogers orbit that Eddie even bumps into Jane and Ray while theyre tryin to remain furtive on the streets of Greenwich Village.
Mr. Jackman first takes command of this leaky vessel when Eddie mocks Janes instant infatuation with Ray. Although the script cooks up excuses for Eddie the lady-killer to feel vulnerable as well, nothing but regal condescension and generosity seem to explain his desire to comfort Jane.
Anyway, he seems so likable on sight that you just dismiss every dubious or sinister hint that might adhere to Eddie, whose alleged sexual appetite and amorality could qualify him as an American Psycho.
Clearly, lewd exaggerations abound in "Someone Like You." Just as clearly, nothing lewd or funny interferes with Mr. Jackmans geniality.
Even his throwback Tony Curtis or Hugh OBrian haircut seems absurdly reassuring. Now that we know Mr. Jackman can steal defective romantic comedies, it seems prudent to trust him with some tougher challenges. Maybe even a smart romantic comedy.


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