Dir: Nancy Meyers. US. 2000. 126 mins.
Prod cos: Icon Productions, Wind Dancer. US dist: Paramount Pictures. Int'l sales: Icon Entertainment International (+ 44 20 7494 8100). Exec prods: Stephen McEveety, David McFadzean, Carmen Finestra. Prods: Nancy Meyers, Bruce Davey, Matt Williams. Scr: Josh Goldsmith, Cathy Yuspa from a story by Goldsmith, Yuspa & Diane Drake. DoP: Dean Cundey. Prod des: Jon Hutman. Eds: Stephen A Rotter, Thomas J Nordberg. Mus: Alan Silvestri. Main cast: Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt, Marisa Tomei, Mark Feuerstein, Lauren Holly, Ashley Johnson, Alan Alda, Delta Burke, Valerie Perrine.
Mel Gibson tackles a romantic comedy lead role for the first time in Nancy Meyers' flabby but mostly very pleasant throwback to 30s and 40s battle-of-the-sexes star vehicles like It Happened One Night or Woman Of The Year. Helen Hunt also softens her edges as Gibson's principal leading lady, and they are a charming match playing out a script that generates some big laughs.
As the domestic opening of $34.4m signifies, box office prospects are merry, and independent distributors who stumped up large sums to buy it from Gibson's own company Icon will be licking their lips at the lucrative package they have invested in.
Gibson plays a self-centred ladies man, a divorced bachelor with little time for his teenage daughter and an expert in talking women into bed. According to the morality rule book in Hollywood movies, however, this lifestyle is unacceptable (see also the life lesson given to Nicolas Cage's character in The Family Man), so along comes the lightning bolt which gives Gibson....the ability to read the thoughts of all women around him. Now the arrival of his gift coincides with the arrival of a new boss at the advertising agency where he works - the icy workaholic Hunt - who has been brought in to turn the company around and taken a position which he thought was rightfully his. Using his new talent, he reads her thoughts and uses them to benefit his own career while essentially rendering her redundant. But then of course, they fall in love.
Gibson is energetic to say the least, whether dancing to Frank Sinatra, drunkenly donning women's clothing or having great sex with Tomei while all the time reading her mind. His transformation from sexist womaniser to sensitive new man is almost too hard to swallow (not that the entire film isn't a fantasy) but Gibson gets away with it through his sheer star power and the genuine chemistry with Hunt which makes you believe in his turnaround.
It's the type of heartwarming grown-up comedy which hasn't been made since Sleepless In Seattle and which has, of late, been replaced by myriad teen romances with little charm. Employing lavish production values and a sterling supporting cast, Meyers aims for a distinctly old-fashioned tone and, while she's no Preston Sturges, at least the results are decidedly engaging.