film: How To Lose An Audience in 10 Minutes 

Two adorable leads can't save this prodding, predictable plot.

Relying on the overworked "he said/she said" conceit instead of attempting anything original, "How to Lose a Guy etc." gives us the same-old/same-old when it comes to pitting men against women on the battleground known as dating.

Matthew McConaughey is an advertising executive who likes to take his clothes off in the office. Kate Hudson is a serious journalist yearning to keep true to her investigative reporter's credo while living in a material world.

When Andie Anderson (Hudson) gets assigned a new how-to column by her boss at Composure Magazine, she sets out to try to lose a man in 10 days using all the sad mistakes women's mags have been flogging their readers for making since that whole Garden of Eden fiasco. Little does Andie know that the guy she chooses to lose (McConaughey's Benjamin Barry) has a plan of his own: In order to land a major diamond account, he, too, needs to find a gal to fall in love with him in as many days.

If I have made this sound even remotely entertaining, I apologize. Truly.

From the start, "How to Lose etc." begs one very obvious question: Why would a woman — any woman — need to do any field research for this kind of story when she and her girlfriends could start a lecture tour on the topic?

As portrayed by Hudson, Andie is something of an oddity: Part Cosmo girl and part Woodward and Bernstein wannabe, she bemoans not being able to tackle serious issues like politics and religion, but then, falls "head-over-heels" for the guy she's supposed to dump. (Because — as we all know — all a real woman wants is the right guy to love.)

While Bebe Neuwirth is perfectly cast as the she-devil editor of Composure, the triumvirate of screenwriters waste her considerable talent for satire by making her more of a stereotype than either Andie or Barry. In better hands, imagine how Neuwirth's character could have skewered the Anna Wintours and other celebrated specimens of her ilk in the magazine world. But director Donald Petrie approaches the magazine world as if the women who work for Vogue and W are all oversexed, underloved man-traps masquerading as career women.

"How to Lose" is a relative failure from the outset — except for Hudson's golden locks and that Mona Lisa-esque little smile of hers. It does improve slightly when it leaves the world of publishing behind and follows Hudson as she charmingly tries to ditch McConaughey. Who, of course, is gonna hold onto her no matter what, since she's his ticket to that big account. But instead of playing on the rising frustration Hudson's Andie must be feeling as she tries every old trick in the book to shed herself of McConaughey, Petrie and his trio of uninspired scripters are only interested in serving up every romantic misunderstanding we've seen on screen a million times before.

However, the saddest aspect of the movie is that it's obvious both Hudson and McConaughey would like nothing better than to ditch all this Venus vs. Mars bull and get down to a nice little romance. Instead, McConaughey is forced to follow a script that makes him look like a witless punching bag for abuse and that requires Hudson to run around in fake-crazed mode most of the time.

By the time the third act kicks in — centering on the all-important 10th and final day the two have together — my teeth were on edge. It's clear "How to Lose" had high hopes of being a frothy confection that would satisfy the hungriest of hearts around Valentine's Day. But it doesn't come close. Only the terminally love-starved will find this entertaining. **


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