It’s rare for the copy to improve on the original, but that’s what Peyton Reed’s wildly inventive 2003 comedy “Down With Love” (which I discuss in this clip) does with the New-York-centric Rock Hudson/Doris Day comedies of the late ‘fifties and early ‘sixties that inspired it. Though it’s hard to imagine Ewan McGregor and Renée Zellweger filling such shoes, Reed elicits clever performances from them which help him reveal, with self-aware winks, both the conventions that the earlier comedies ran on and the realities that these conventions concealed. The sidekick of choice in the Hudson/Day movies is Tony Randall; here, his breezily neurotic style is brilliantly channelled by David Hyde Pierce, who makes much of the character’s sexual inhibitions, and Randall himself appears, in one of his final screen roles.
A word about Randall, who, I think, had the curse to be born too soon. He saw the light of day in 1920 and was already middle-aged by the time the short, chirpy, intellectual heroes of the late nineteen-sixties and beyond (such as Dustin Hoffman, Richard Benjamin, and Woody Allen) came to the fore. He set the tone for their way of acting, and had he been the right age, he’d have gotten some of their roles, and even improved on them.