Down to You

Call me old-fashioned, but I still think movies should have plots. I mean, if you’re going to go to the trouble of hiring actors and buying film to put in the cameras, you might as well have something happen, right?

“Down to You” is a bland, witless romantic comedy that takes great care to avoid introducing conflict into the lives of the protagonists. They meet, they date, they fall in love, all without hindrances. Even when they break up — 15 minutes before the film ends — it’s for a generic reason, and it’s quickly overcome after only a few moments of fretting.

Our heroes are Al (Freddie Prinze Jr.) and Imogen (Julia Stiles), students at an unnamed New York City university. He’s the son of a TV chef (Henry Winkler, who actually looks like he could be Freddie Prinze Jr.’s dad — odd, considering he looks nothing like the actual Freddie Prinze Sr.); she’s the daughter of somebody we never meet.

Potential conflicts abound. Al’s dad embarrasses her on his TV show. Al has friends involved in the porno-movie industry, and he has to go be an extra one night, due to a stupid bet he lost regarding which wine represents love and which one represents illusion (just one of many puzzling moments in the film). He’s two years older than her. She thinks she might be pregnant. Everywhere you look, there are seeds of a plot — seeds of SOMETHING happening — but they never grow. Instead, we see a cutesy relationship blossom and flourish, but without the benefit of chemistry or actual romance. Only in the last few minutes of the movie do we feel any kind of connection to them — like maybe we actually like them — but by then, it’s too little, too late.

Both main characters narrate the film, which at least makes it somewhat different, if not entertaining. Prinze, who has some genuine charisma in real life, here is muted and watered down, grinning his “aw-shucks” grin all the time so as to appeal to the 14-year-old girls this film is aimed at (an audience that is probably content to just look at Freddie Prinze Jr. for 90 minutes, plot or no plot). Stiles is pretty, too, and her character is more than just a living toothpaste ad, but not much more.

One thing this film has going for it is the fact that if you see it, the next day you’ll have forgotten it ever existed. It’s a terrible movie, but a skimpy, innocuous one. At the end of 2000, it won’t make anyone’s “Worst of the Year” lists, not because it doesn’t belong there, but because everyone will have forgotten it ever existed.

D+ (; PG-13, mild-to-moderate swearing, frequent sexual dialogue, implied sex.)