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(2001) (Ashley Judd, Hugh Jackman) (PG-13)

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Romantic Comedy: After coming up with a theory about many men's polygamous ways, a woman must deal with her feelings toward various men in her life.
Jane Goodale (ASHLEY JUDD) is a talent booker for the Diane Roberts Show, a New York talk show that's just been picked up nationally. Beyond finding talent for the show's ambitious host (ELLEN BARKIN), Jane spends her time trying to figure out why men always dump her. In doing so, she's come up with her "New Cow Theory" where she equates men with bulls who show no interest in cows with which they've already mated, but instead pursue new cows.

One of her coworkers, Eddie Alden (HUGH JACKMAN), seems to be the epitome of her theory as he appears to her as a carefree womanizer, who always moves on from one woman to the next after bedding them. Despite her theory, Jane is immediately smitten with and then falls for Ray Brown (GREG KINNEAR), the show's executive producer who's just arrived in town.

Although he has a girlfriend of three years, Ray and Jane soon become lovers and she couldn't be happier, a point that doesn't sit well with her cynical editor friend, Liz (MARISA TOMEI). Yet, just when things seem to be going so right and she's given up her apartment to move in with Ray, he dumps her, forcing Jane to rent a vacant room from Eddie.

As the two of them clash and bicker about how men and women view relationships, and she watches how her sister, Alice (CATHERINE DENT) and her husband, Stephen (PETER FRIEDMAN), get along, Jane eventually puts her theory into print, creating a national sensation. While doing so and trying to deal with her feelings toward Ray, she doesn't realize that the best thing for her could be right under her nose.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Whether it's biologically or socially based, there's no denying that many men and women view, approach and participate in love and sex in often polar opposite ways. While there are and probably always will be exceptions to the rule, many men tend to follow the polygamous "hunter" role, while woman seem to prefer and favor the monogamous "family" role.

It's debatable whether this is genetically pre-programmed into most everyone in a Wild Kingdom type fashion or is simply passed on within each gender from one generation to the next and is now reinforced through media stereotypes. Yet, there's no denying that such a gulf exists, particularly when the break up rate in relationships and marriages is staggeringly high.

There's also no denying that such subject matter has and can still serve as good fodder for entertaining and observational romantic comedies. Unfortunately, "Someone Like You" isn't one of those films, although it certainly tries and has all of the requisite ingredients, etc. to be one.

Based on Laura Zigman's novel, "Animal Husbandry," the plot focuses on one woman's attempt to figure out why men are always dumping her. She comes up with her subsequent bovine-based theory that compares men to polygamous bulls who never return to the same "old cow" once they've mated just once. Although that may sound like a cute and/or amusing setup - and notwithstanding the unflattering metaphor for men, women and their mating habits - this romantic comedy simply doesn't work that well.

Rather amazingly, it doesn't take long for one to recognize this fact. Beyond the cutesy voice over narration that starts the film, explains the cow theory, and occasionally later pops up, the forced whimsical music and the artificial sight and sound of such a bull yawning over some old cow, the film misfires right from the get-go.

Most films, even the colossally horrendous ones, take a while before they show their true colors, but this one doesn't feel right from moment one, with the film's forced whimsy, romance and comedy revealing the puppeteer's strings far too soon.

The biggest problem, however, which is a fatal flaw for a film of this genre, is in the setup between the protagonist, played with cute, over the top enthusiasm by the radiant Ashley Judd, and the object of her affection and then later disdain embodied by Greg Kinnear, the one-time Oscar nominee who's in serious need of a career makeover and/or new agent/manager after playing this same sort of character one too many times.

The chemistry between them is essentially non-existent, and occurs and develops far too quickly and artificially, resulting in a relationship that feels nothing short of contrived and unbelievable. While one can appreciate director Tony Goldwyn (the actor turned director who helmed "A Walk on the Moon") and screenwriter Elizabeth Chandler ("A Little Princess") dispensing with the formalities and cutting to the chase - so to speak - rather quickly, few but the young and less discerning among viewers will buy into the relationship.

Although the revelation that Kinnear's character is a cad is supposed to be a surprise - which it's not since we know he's cheating on his long-term girlfriend - it at least explains his quick hooking up with her. On the other hand, and considering the protagonist's reported track record with men that's led to the new cow theory, there's no way she'd hop into a relationship, let alone a bed, with him based on looks alone, especially knowing that he has a current girlfriend.

That affair also imparts a bad taste over what's supposed to be a lighthearted picture. As a result, the film never fully recovers from a logical, emotional or entertainment standpoint. It also doesn't help that the filmmakers have crafted an otherwise predictable storyline where the protagonist and her friend analyze the situation and she ends up falling for the wrong type of man who turns out to be Mr. Right. That development is so easy to spot from the onset that they might as well have hung such a sign around that character's neck at the beginning, just to eliminate any need for the effort of "surprising" us once it happens.

The one thing the film has going for it, and that makes it relatively easy to watch, is an attractive, talented and certainly charismatic cast. Returning to the light comedy material following her turn in "Where the Heart Is," Ashley Judd ("Eye of the Beholder," "Double Jeopardy") is delightful to behold, even if her character is weakly and illogically drawn. Hugh Jackman ("The X-Men," the upcoming "Swordfish") also delivers a winning performance as the resident tomcat, and the chemistry between them is palatable, even if too predictable and too late to develop.

Marisa Tomei ("What Women Want," "My Cousin Vinny") is decent as the obligatory cynical but supportive friend, but Greg Kinnear ("The Gift," "Nurse Betty") can't do much with his repeat performance of a cad who gets away with his wrongdoings via his smile, good looks and deceptive charisma.

Although the film's not bad enough to be considered the cinematic equivalent of nails screeching down the chalkboard, it's simply too contrived and predictable for its own good. It also never recovers from some plot developments that should immediately strike viewers as illogical, or the fact that its observational material isn't particularly novel, insightful or funny. Benefiting from a good cast but not much else, the lamely titled "Someone Like You" is the sort of picture you want to like and/or enjoy, but simply doesn't allow you to do that. The film rates as just a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed March 14, 2001 / Posted March 30, 2001

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