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Opens Friday, Dec. 12

"Something's Gotta Give" is a cheerful romantic comedy about the rejuvenating power of love and how old dogs can indeed learn new tricks. Writer-director Nancy Meyers smoothly blends several comedy styles -- the delicious oddball situation of Kaufman and Hart and the psychobabble of Woody Allen with a considerable helping of the frothy style Meyers herself has developed over the years with her former screenwriting partner Charles Shyer -- into a kind of updated and saucier version of a Rock Hudson-Doris Day comedy.

Only the characters are determinedly middle-age as Meyers has crafted chewy parts that allow Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton to perform riffs on their own personalities and past roles. This skewers the demographics toward older audiences, of course, but this should be no serious drawback as boxoffice for this joint Sony/Warner Bros. production looks promising. You just wish someone had come up with a better title.

Meyers' premise, in which a divorced mother falls in love with her daughter's much-older boyfriend, could have sent the plot rumbling off in any number of quirky if not edgy directions. But Meyers settles for a sitcom crowd-pleaser. Seemingly at issue here are May-December romances, but this quickly dissolves in favor of a conventional romance with a meet-cute (albeit a very funny one) leading to love, a disruption, then a happy fadeout.

Nicholson's Harry Sanborn, a 63-year-old music business mogul who never dates women older than 30, travels to the Hamptons for a weekend tryst with his latest infatuation, Amanda Peet's Marin. To their horror, the two lovebirds discover that Marin's mom, highly successful Broadway playwright Erica Barry (Keaton), and her aunt Zoe (Frances McDormand) also are in residence.

Mistaking Harry for a burglar as he rummages in the refrigerator clad only in his underwear, Erica and Zoe pull a knife and are in the process of dialing 911 when a red-faced Marin, also clad in scanties, clarifies the nature of this intruder. An understandable hostility develops between Harry and the two disapproving sisters, but this gives way to concern when he suffers a mild heart attack.

His ER doctor, Julian Mercer (Keanu Reeves), allows Harry to return to Erica's beachfront home with the understanding that he is not to budge until his health improves. When the rest of her family decamps for Manhattan after the weekend, a dismayed Erica finds herself with an unwanted housemate. Then Erica, instead of writing her latest comedy, finds her world turned upside down when both Harry and Harry's doctor, a man in his mid-30s, become romantically attracted to her.

All the characters have a tendency to psychoanalyze both themselves and one another, which makes this a very talky comedy. Yet Meyers has handed her leads many juicy lines and several fine comedy situations to play. The film also does something quite remarkable for an American film: It makes middle-age love look sexy and hugely satisfying.

Nicholson and Keaton pair off nicely in their first co-starring outing together. Nicholson performs adroit and hilarious physical comedy to go with line deliveries no one else would do half as well. Similarly, Keaton gives her character's emotional dithering and confusion over all the curves life suddenly throws at her a charm few other actresses could have managed.

Reeves, McDormand, Peet and Jon Favreau, playing Harry's all-purpose assistant, bring star power to what amount to small roles, giving these characters a dimension that was probably barely discernible on the page.

For a film shot mostly on soundstages and backlot sets, "Something's Gotta Give" has a fairly realistic look thanks in large measure to Michael Bullhaus' glistening cinematography. Sets and costumes look like someone hit the shopping mall and bought Pottery Barn and J. Crew out of much of their inventory.

SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE

Columbia Pictures

Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures present a Waverly Films production

Credits:

Screenwriter-director: Nancy Meyers

Producers: Bruce A. Block, Nancy Meyers

Director of photography: Michael Bullhaus

Production designer: Jon Hutman

Music: Hans Zimmer

Co-producer: Suzanne Farwell

Costume designer: Suzanne McCabe

Editor: Joe Hutshing

Cast:

Harry Sanborn: Jack Nicholson

Erica Barry: Diane Keaton

Julian: Keanu Reeves

Zoe: Frances McDormand

Marin: Amanda Peet

Leo: Jon Favreau

Dave: Paul Michael Glaser

Dr. Martinez: Rachel Ticotin

Running time -- 125 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13


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