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Dir. & writ. Richard Curtis; feat. Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Billy Bob Thornton (R)

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Mark (Andrew Linclon) is a Londoner in the grip of love in Love Actually. Courtesy Photo

In Love Actually, viewers again sit through a wedding, a funeral, and a school kid's rock band triumph straight out of School of Rock or About a Boy. First-time director Richard Curtis seems bent on recycling bits from his hit screenplays for Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones Diary, and Notting Hill. Once again, he uses the 1960s hit "Love is All Around" (from Weddings) as a theme. Washed-up and wasted British rock singer Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) re-records the bloody ballad with new Christmas lyrics. Will it be a hit or a miss for Mack? Ah, the tension is building. Now add a narrator who delivers greeting card drivel throughout: "Public opinion has it that we live in a world of hatred and greed - I don't see that - seems to me that love is everywhere." Eight London "luv" stories comprise the plot - actually lust, adultery, and one-night stand stories. In Curtis' universe, men are indeed from Mars and their hapless women Venus flytraps.

The film's best moments are its humorous solo turns. Who can resist Hugh Grant as the new Prime Minister dirty dancing like Tom Cruise in his underpants or Mack's madcap antics as his record nears the top? The narrator then informs us that airports are filled with random acts of love. Bah, Humbug! Obviously, the bloke has never flown British Air from Heathrow!

Memo to Curtis: Instead of using the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love," it might be more apropos for these times to remember John and Yoko in bed, making love and singing "Merry Xmas (War is Over)." That was about love actually. — Gregg Barrios



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