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Alex and Emma

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Jan
Alex and Emma

from Film Forum, 06/26/03

Rob Reiner, director of such favorites as The Princess Bride, Stand by Me, and When Harry Met Sally, is back with a new romantic comedy—Alex and Emma. The plot is inspired by the story of Fyodor Dostoevsky, who attempted to take care of gambling debts by anxiously penning a short story called The Gambler. Legend has it that during this endeavor he fell in love with his stenographer.

This version of the story casts Luke Wilson (Old School, The Royal Tenenbaums) as a struggling romance novelist who asks Kate Hudson (Almost Famous, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) to take dictation. Does it compare to Dostoevsky? Critics suggest the finished product is more like a cheap romance novel.

"This is a light and often funny romantic comedy played nicely by the two leads," says Michael Elliott (Movie Parables). "The romantic sparks between the two never quite ignite, but both characters are likable enough for us to be rooting for them to get together. The screenplay … includes plenty of amusing setups, funny lines, and a sweetly emotional payoff."

But David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) complains, "Reiner here breaks one of the cardinal rules of the genre by not placing enough roadblocks—or even potholes—on Alex and Emma's byway to bliss. Their relationship is without obstacles and is never really in jeopardy—with the exception of a plot twist thrown in late in the game—divesting the narrative of any doubt as to whether they will stroll off into the end-credit sunset together."

Steven Isaac (Focus on the Family) writes, "Alex & Emma does not aspire to high concept art or complex literature, but rather it is content to remain a sweet and simple love story. Luke Wilson and Kate Hudson have moderate chemistry and the film's pacing, while teetering perilously near boredom at times, manages to elicit a comfortable sense of warmth." He argues that while the film's central story is interesting, the hasty sex between the two leads is unfortunate, and the fiction penned by Luke Wilson's character "comes pretty close to spoiling the whole thing. His characters are dull, predictable and shallow."

Ted Baehr (Movieguide) notes with pleasure that Luke Wilson at one point cries out, "Help me Lord!" But he concludes that the film "has a Romantic, 'fate and destiny' feel to it. Regrettably, the characters sleep together in the movie, and a silhouetted, campy sex scene makes the movie unacceptable for older children."

Holly McClure (Crosswalk) says, "I enjoyed the clever and witty touches to this story … but somehow it doesn't end up being a When Harry Met Sally (like I expected). This is simply a sweet and entertaining romantic comedy for adults."