A scene from 'Down To You'
Courtesy Photo
*1/2 stars 98 minutes | Rated: PG-13
Opened: Friday, January 21, 2000
Written & directed by Kris Isaccson

Starring Freddie Prinze Jr., Julia Stiles, Selma Blair, Zak Orth, Rosario Dawson, Ashton Kutcher, Shawn Hatosy, Henry Winkler & Lucie Arnaz

This film is on the Worst of 2000 list.


Bland, pathetically unoriginal teen romance only for the easiest-to-please simpletons whose singular interest in movies is how attractive the stars are.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 07/11/2000


Once-respectable Miramax dumps another dim-bulb teen romance in the bone yard of late January

By Rob Blackwelder

"Down To You" is like being cornered at a party by some sad, drunk guy whose girlfriend has just dumped him.

The expressionless Freddie Prinze, Jr. ("Wing Commander") is the guy, a recent college grad who talks to the camera incessantly and without zeal about Julia Stiles ("10 Things I Hate About You"), the dream-girl co-ed that broke his heart. He tells the whole story of their prefabricated, paper doll romance in trite and exasperating detail -- not a moment of which even hints at originality -- and all the while you sit in the audience, dying to change the subject.

This is Miramax's second annual dim-bulb teen romance to be dumped in the cinematic bone yard of late January. The pathetic "She's All That" -- a "Pygmalion" redo (also starring Prinze) that preached the keys to happiness as lip gloss and popular boyfriends -- also came from the formerly highfalutin art house, which didn't even screen this movie for the press (officially, the print was lost). A fact that indicates the studio realizes how low it has sunk.

Written and directed by the very green Kris Isacsson (whose only previous credit is winning Best Short at Sundance in '97), this picture employs getting-to-know-you montages, walks in Central Park, a top-40 soundtrack and other gratuitous romantic clichés as it sleepwalks through a wafer-thin, what-went-wrong parable about the relationship between aspiring chef Prinze and aspiring artist Stiles as they discovered together that they're nervous about their futures.

Prinze and the pretty but inconsequential Stiles (who also gets face-time with the audience to spin her perspective) are so unattached to each other that some scenes seem to be made entirely of cut-away shots, filmed with only one of the actors in the room at a time. Neither of them give us any reason to care about these people.

The inexperienced Isacsson's muddled stew of styles and story asides often leaves the movie flailing around like a dying fish, with uncreatively eccentric (and often unexplained) secondary characters drifting in and out of scenes. Zak Orth ("In & Out"), Shawn Hatosy ("Outside Providence") and Selma Blair ("Cruel Intentions") all come and go in unfocused performances as various friends.

But no matter what the cutesy sitcom twist (Prinze imagines himself on Comedy Central's "The Man Show") or film school gimmick (in addition to breaking the fourth wall, Prize and Stiles interact with their flashbacks), "Down To You" feels 100-percent artificial. The settings and situations, the courtship, the longing, the Big Fight, the inevitable reunion -- not one moment of the movie rings true.

What Isacsson seems to be shooting for here is a college-age "When Harry Met Sally," which is an honorable enough intention. But his aim is so far off there's almost nothing redeemable in this flatly-acted, absent-mindedly directed, formulaic flop -- save the sense of relief that comes when the downhearted dumpee finally finishes his story.

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