A desperately unfunny mix of tepid showbiz satire and formulaic romantic comedy, writer-director Amy Heckerling’s long-delayed, trouble-plagued “I Could Never Be Your Woman” finally has been released — or, more precisely, unleashed — as a direct-to-video title. But it’s unlikely that even the marquee allure of Michelle Pfeiffer, Paul Rudd and up-and-comer Saoirse Ronan will be enough to offset unfavorable buzz after enough renters sample this ill-fated fiasco.
Pfeiffer plays Rosie, a fortysomething single mom and TV producer who often relies on input from her precocious young daughter (Ronan) while punching up dialogue for “You Go, Girl,” her primetime series about glossy teens and their romantic entanglements.
In the not-so-grand tradition of similar TV fare, “Girl” routinely casts obvious twentysomethings as high school students. But Rosie finds herself fretting about a different type of age disparity when she falls for 29-year-old Adam (Rudd), a newly cast actor who’s equally attracted to her.
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Heckerling may have made her mark with smart, savvy comedies such as “Clueless” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” but her latest effort has the look, feel and sound of something dumbed down for mass consumption. As Rosie copes with a fatuous network exec (Fred Willard), a diva-like star (Stacey L. Dash) and a duplicitous secretary (Sarah Alexander), pic is every bit as shrill and overplayed as the sitcoms it attempts to skewer.
The interplay between Ronan (cast here prior to her breakthrough in “Atonement”) and Pfeiffer is appreciably more subdued, but scarcely less self-conscious. And it doesn’t help much that Heckerling coaxes a shockingly obnoxious performance from Tracey Ullman as Mother Nature, a tart-tongued fantasy figure who periodically appears to warn Rosie about the latter’s “unnatural” cross-generational dalliance.
For the record, there’s only an 11-year age difference between Pfeiffer and Rudd, and the gap seems much smaller when the two leads share intimate scenes together. Rudd overdoes the puppy-dog-cuteness thing, and Pfeiffer is a tad too hyper for comfort. But the chemistry they generate goes a long way toward making a few scenes at least modestly amusing.
Filmed mostly in the U.K. at locales that ably sub for L.A., “I Could Never Be Your Woman” is littered with dated pop-culture references that only serve to underscore how long it’s been on the shelf.