There's a strong scent of marketing panic in the air when distributors can't decide on a title for their movie. Animal Attraction started life as Animal Husbandry (the title of the source novel). But perhaps sensing that audiences may suspect some unsavoury sexual practices, it became the rather bland, generic-rom-com-titled Someone Like You in the States. Then it bombed, so suddenly it pops up in the UK with a slightly more interesting moniker. But that ain't gonna help it much...
It's a given that romantic comedies follow a predictable path. Yet their success often depends on the viewer's sympathy with the heroine. This film's central problem is the (mis)casting of southern belle Ashley Judd as a career-driven, New Yoik kook. It's hard to believe she could successfully order a bagel let alone flourish in the Big Apple. In terms of comic mileage, Judd's Jane looks very plain indeed.
Fortunately, she's given top-notch support from Ellen Barkin and Greg Kinnear, and a decent love interest in the shape of X-Men's Hugh Jackman. The fact that he gets all the best lines (like his explanation for a lovebite: "I bit myself shaving") and a chance to display his pants won't hurt his career at all. And considering he also shines in the actioner Swordfish, this summer's already a hot one for Jackman.
But director Tony Goldwyn is unable to capitalise on his supporting cast's performances, and has left all lensing flair at home during this outing - Animal Attraction has all the schmaltz of his debut A Walk On The Moon, and none of its charm. Burdened with a disastrous subplot which blossoms into a denouement more embarrassing than watching porn with your parents, and eschewing humour in favour of syrupy emotionalism, this is for die-hard, cry-hard rom-com devotees only.
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Not oddball enough to make you laugh, not believable enough to make you care, this falls somewhere between 'romantic' and 'comedy'. Those looking for a bit of vapid summer fun could do worse, but then again, they could do much, much better.