In contrast to the horrifically stupid, dull romantic comedies the past month or two have brought us, "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" is almost, but not quite, a breath of fresh air. Its stars click, which is more than can be said for some of the flotsam out there ("A Guy Thing," for example), and most of the time the film wears its improbability proudly.
Although it's a little much for the filmmakers to play "Who Do You Love" by George Thorogood and the Destroyers without a hint of irony when Matthew McConaughey -- MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, for heaven's sake -- first appears on a motorcycle.
Still, though, "How to Lose a Guy" even makes McConaughey appealing -- not as easy as it sounds -- and not just because he flashes some fairly impressive abs. When he does take off his shirt, the movie is quick to wink at that, at least. And the act suits his character, a vain, driven but more or less decent guy put through his paces all because of his ego.
Based, strangely enough, on a quirky little how-to book by the same title, the movie also stars Kate Hudson, who displays a pleasant knack for comedy and more than a few traces of her mother Goldie Hawn. She plays Andie Anderson, a conveniently single columnist for a Cosmopolitan-like magazine. She really wants to tackle tough political issues, such as how to achieve world peace, but her editor is shrewd enough to know her readers care about cosmetics, not Kazakhstan. Andie, who touts her master's degree in journalism, should be able to figure this out, but somehow doesn't.
Unable to weigh in on "things that matter," she decides to write about how to get a guy to dump you, using all the mistakes women make when trying to attach themselves to a guy too fast. Andie's plan: pick up a man in a bar and make him run screaming within 10 days. She chooses Ben (McConaughey), who meanwhile is choosing HER to prove to his boss he can make a woman fall in love with him in -- can you believe it! -- 10 days.
You can guess what some of Andie's attempts to poison the relationship will be -- if this couple goes to the movies, you can be sure it will be a chick-flick marathon -- but some of them are fairly inventive, especially those involving a drink at a Knicks playoff game and a nickname guaranteed to send any guy sprinting for the nearest exit.
"How to Lose a Guy" eventually loses its cheerful goofiness and its momentum, climaxing with a lengthy and embarrassing showdown scene at a big party. But it gets worse: The film stoops to yet another wait!-I-love-him/her chase through the streets of Manhattan. Originality has never really been necessary to the success of this sort of movie, but we've seen that tired moment way too often. "How to End a Romantic Comedy Without a Cliche" -- now there's a column Andie might want to try writing.