'The Holiday' — Ho ho ho-humbug

’Tis a dreary season, for sure, when even the romantic comedy on the slate is drab. And “The Holiday,” written and directed by Nancy Meyers, is indeed dull goo.

The women are unembraceable, the men bland and the humor trite in this double love story with a yuletide backdrop. Meyers, echoing her past films (which include, most recently, “Something’s Gotta Give” and “What Women Want”), delivers, basically, a big-screen sitcom. And the spark that previously enlivened her formulaic stories is missing.

Iris (Kate Winslet), a weepy British newspaperwoman, and Amanda (Cameron Diaz), a workaholic Hollywood movie-trailer producer, swap houses, via the Internet, to escape man problems. Amanda settles into Iris’ cozy Surrey cottage, Iris delights in the comforts of Amanda’s L.A. mansion, and, presto, relationships happen. Amanda falls for Iris’ pub-going brother, Graham (Jude Law), who arrives, drunk, to crash on the couch. Iris romances Miles (Jack Black), a movie-score composer, and befriends Arthur (Eli Wallach), an elderly ex-screenwriter who inspires her to become the leading lady in her life.

Seemingly using Arthur, who extols Hollywood golden-age movies, as a mouthpiece, Meyershas apparently tried to make an old-fashioned charmer with formidable heroines and screwball pizzazz. And to her credit, she develops her characters decently as they cling (in Iris’ case), repel (in Amanda’s) and, these being contemporary times, psychobabble.

But save for a couple cute interludes — Amanda envisioning her life movie-trailer style; Miles singing the merits of famous film scores — the movie is depressing glop that isn’t sparkling, funny or real enough to inspire emotional investment.

As Iris and Amanda obsess over their failures with men, they’re more tedious than winning. The haste with which the romantically wounded pair fall in love anew is baloney. And, doomsville for a film of this ilk, there’s little charge in either coupling. Jumping for joy seems to constitute passion.

Among the cast, while Law fills the dreamboat niche (a la Keanu Reeves in Meyers’ last outing) and Black provides comic relief in a comedy that shouldn’t need it, only Winslet produces something remotely compelling from the material. Unfortunately, Meyers gives her lines like “I like corny! I’m looking for corny in my life!” and, throughout this entire uninspiring movie, caters to such sentiment.

Credits

The Holiday *½

Starring Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Jack Black

Written and directed by Nancy Meyers

Rated PG-13

Running time 2 hours, 16 minutes

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