"Down to You" is nothing if not ambitious. Unfortunately it's also, er, nothing.
It wants to be youthful, charming, goofy, spontaneous, wild 'n' crazy, romantic as all get-out in its evocation of first love. It only achieves the latter in the following sense: watching it, I felt an intense need to get out.
Freddie Prinze Jr. (the scrawny boy) and Julia Stiles (the pudgy girl) play students at an NYU that could be a community college in Anytown, U.S.A., for all texture the film delivers. They meet cute, they fall in love cute, they talk cute, they are so cute that tonstant viewer frowed up. They express passion by archly raising their eyebrows as they speak in elaborate double-entendres, cueing us in to the fact that they're really talking about sex.
In fact, the movie plays a tedious game with cake as metaphor, attempting to breathe life into the old saw about having it and eating it too. But life is the last thing the movie is capable of representing.
Then, alas, as their college years slip by, the two begin to drift apart. The music of her laughter and the tingle of his touch stop. The fun goes south. The fights begin. The sex gets average, then boring, then married. They break up.
And then . . . they get back together.
End of movie.
Not very good, huh? You keep waiting for a twist, a difficulty, a dilemma, a single cleverness. Wait in vain, partner. It is written somewhere that the path of true love never runs straight, but in this one, it basically follows the path of a compass azimuth vectored on till morning. He does nothing to win her back at all; in fact, he just mopes around like a manic depressive in the down loop, not an attractive thing to watch. Then--whatta twist!--she just shows up at a party his parents have given.
These plot materials would create a film at least 13 and possibly as many as 15 minutes long but for one affectation. The writer-director, Kris Isacsson thinks he's being nutty when the film just stops and one or the other of the two kids speaks cutely to the camera, filling in motives, explaining confusions, confessing doubts. It adds a good hour to the running time. Yet as a device, this is leaden and boring. Neither character seems especially insightful, and their intense focus on the self and the terrific delicacy of their feelings comes to feel narcissistic and annoying.
None of the other characters in the film crackles with much energy or originality, and Isacsson has zero luck evoking either a realistic version of a human being or a funny cartoon version of one. One of the boys pretends to be an Orson Welles type and walks about in a raccoon coat, speaking in a fake English accent and altering his facial hair. Another is some kind of porn star-MIT genius, and yes, aren't there a lot of those around?
Youth, the movie ends up proving, is too boring to be wasted on the old.
Down to You is rated PG-13 for sexual innuendo and kissy-huggy-yakky stuff. It is 96 minutes long and playing at area theaters.
CAPTION: Freddie Prinze Jr. and Julia Stiles star in the tedious romance "Down to You."