P.S. I Love You

(2007) ** Pg-13
126 min. Warner Brothers Pictures. Director: Richard LaGravenese. Cast: Hilary Swank, Gerard Butler, Lisa Kudrow, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Gina Gershon.

Unrepentant romance-film lovers will go see P.S. I Love You no matter what any critic says. But it's still my job to inform you that this sapfest about a woman who carries on an emotional relationship with her husband for a full year after he dies isn't good for what ails ya. Director Richard LaGravenese and Steven Rogers adapt Cecelia Ahern's novel into a mall-friendly getaway for strained and—let's just be honest—female holiday shoppers.

Hilary Swank plays Holly, who dissolves into a seriocomical mess after her husband Gerry's death. Her apartment becomes a pig sty as she lies in bed and watches old movies. "Why can't I be Bette Davis?" she asks. Rather than answer that question, let's just move along. Her renewed marriage to Gerry (Gerard Butler) unfolds in letters that tie Swank into emotional knots and send her on missions, including a couple of trips to Ireland. Gerry says he just wasn't ready to let go, though clearly his letter-writing campaign is designed to get Holly to do just that.

True to romantic-comedy form, there's a gaggle of best friends and family, including Kathy Bates, Lisa Kudrow, Gina Gershon, and James Marsters. Their wan wisecracking isn't nearly enough to distract from the ludicrous plot, so naturally we get potential boyfriends for Holly's inevitable new life. Who will it be? The Gerry clone who's also an Irish guitarist (Jeffrey Dean Morgan)? Or the bartender (Harry Connick Jr.) who has "a syndrome" that forces him to blurt out embarrasing truths like "I think you're hot!"? Gee, they're both so cute!

We learn that Swank's gifts don't lie down the avenue of physical comedy; she has to suffer a number of embarrassments (singing along with Judy Garland on "The Man That Got Away"), but at least she handles the dramatic beats more effectively. Butler, though puportedly attractive, gives a chipmunk-chipper performance that can only be described as supremely annoying, making the picture well-nigh unbearable at times. As for that plot, the last straw comes after two full hours of sentiment, when LaGravenese tries a semi-honest ending before succumbing to a dishonest one that panders to those slaphappy shoppers. Depending on your taste, you'll see the picture as a getaway, or one from which you'll want to get away.

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround

Street date: 5/6/2008

Distributor: Warner Home Video

If you're going to spring for this one and you have the equipment for it (no double entendre intended), you might as well take the plunge to the Blu-Ray version, which makes the Irish scenery spring to life. As is to be expected for a brand-new film, P.S. I Love You gets an excellent audio-visual presentation on Blu-Ray, and even one of the special features is thoughtfully presented in high-def.

That would be "A Conversation with Author Cecelia Ahern" (7:33), which finds Ahern talking about her good fortune with Hollywood, represented by producers Molly Smith and Wendy Finerman, writer-director Richard LaGravanese, Gerard Butler, and Hilary Swank. Despite what the package says, "The Name of the Game is Snaps" (4:49) is not presented in HD, but it hardly matters, as it's made in faux-scratchy black-and-white '50s instructional-film style; the idea is to teach the social game that crops up in the film.

Warner includes four worthwhile Additional Scenes (12:20) and the music video "Same Mistake" by James Blunt (3:51), neither in HD. It all amounts to just the right amount of packing material to nestle this romantic bauble of a movie.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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