The movie takes its plot from the template of the classic 1989 Rob Reiner film which tells much the same story, but doesn't succeed in its aim of filling the boots of its predecessor. Whilst the charm of Reiner's film was the sharp, witty dialogue between Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, Colin Patrick Lynch's script simply fails to reach the same standard - it comes across as a dumbed-down imitation.
Also lacking is the simplicity of its predecessor. Whilst Reiner delivered a similar story over a similar period of time, it never felt as busy as Nigel Cole’s movie, in which there are so many events being shoved into the 107 minutes' running time. What could have been a beautifully simple story is marred by an attempt to fit too much in, at the expense of the characters being given opportunity to develop properly.
The problem with having so many departures is that the plot can seem very contrived in tearing the two apart, such as at one point where Oliver and Emily spend a perfectly happy New Year’s Eve together (another When Harry Met Sally parallel), only for Oliver to announce out of the blue that he is moving to San Francisco the following day. As dramatic and sympathy-inspiring as this may be, such unfortunate coincidences often defy credibility.
As far as acting goes, there is little to complain of. Kutcher isn’t perfect, but he puts across a perfectly competent, likeable performance, thankfully a far cry from his uninspired work in Guess Who. Peet cannot be criticised, but is wasted in the undemanding role she’s given. Unfortunately not enough effort is spent developing the main characters. The two begin almost as polar opposites but then mellow as they age. This allows the chemistry between them to grow, but at the same time makes the characters themselves more bland as they lose the personalities which made the union so interesting in the first place.
A difference between this movie and other romantic comedies that have come before is that there is no mystery at all over what is going to happen. The fact that the first time they clap eyes on each other they dash to the first convenient place for sex leaves us in little doubt that there’s chemistry between the two. The ending, which seems to take an eternity to arrive, is so predictable that I had stopped caring one way or another by the time it came.
Taken as a film in its own right, A Lot Like Love is far from being bad. There are several funny moments and it does work well as a romantic comedy with some good chemistry between the two leads, but the fact that it is so derivative only serves to highlight that the same material has been handled better before. It’s worth watching for an evening of non-taxing entertainment as long as you don’t expect too much originality.