Down With Love: Renee Zellweger Travels Back in Time

Vintage cheese is sure to please.

IF YOU WANT a little relief from all the CGI ass kicking going on to your left, you’ll find just as much virtual-reality artifice in the nifty, fizzy, calorie-free summer romance Down With Love (which opens Friday, May 16 at Metro and others). Built from a matrix of old Rock Hudson-Doris Day romantic comedies, Love celebrates the cheesiness and double entendres of that separate-beds, one-foot-on-the-floor era of unsated lust. Nobody gets laid (not on camera, at least), and all the libido goes into pillow talk: salacious suggestions; sultry split screens; concupiscent cuts. As the rival N.Y.C. writers who’ll inevitably connect, Ewan McGregor and Ren饠Zellweger aren’t just hamming it up, they’re raising an entire hog farm of smarm.

Like the romance, the movie itself is both exaggerated and low-tech. When hero and heroine ride in separate cabs down Central Park West, the same exact blue-screen shot appears behind them. Outside their fabulous apartments, the skyline has all the glittering verisimilitude that cardboard, paint, and lighting gels can supply. You half expect Rock and Doris’ old buddy Tony Randall to wander through the set like on the Letterman show.

No, wait! That is Tony Randall, still full of glee at 83. He plays the publisher of Zellweger’s proto-feminist best seller; McGregor plays the rakish magazine-writer cad determined to take her down; David Hyde Pierce plays his nellyish publisher, who’s mainly worried whether sock garters have suddenly gone out of style.

I sympathized most with Pierce in this pressing fashion matter (though he still manfully clings to his cravat), and he basically steals the movieno surprise, since it’s essentially a sitcom writ large: Friends in gabardine and plaid. McGregor and Zellweger chew the scenery in great bites compared to his small nibbles, but Niles outeats them all. And even if the leering script wears thin, the brilliant parody score by Marc Shaiman (the South Park movie) turns every groaner into a major chord.