With The Holiday, director Nancy Meyers aspires to something more than your average chick flick. At least, that would seem to be her intention, since she's building a standard romantic comedy using nonstandard parts. Cameron Diaz is the only real genre veteran here, with Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and Jack Black all relatively new to the experience. But instead of their outsider talents elevating the material, under Meyers, Winslet et al. fall quickly in line with genre norms. This leaves The Holiday -- a film about the desperate need for new scenery -- feeling all too familiar. Which isn't to say it's not a watchable piece of seasonal romantic fluff; just don't confuse it for more than that. Winslet, the most surprising inclusion in the cast, actually seems rather joyous, liberated from the serious demands of her more typical roles. Quite the opposite is the case for Black, who's usually the zaniest guy in the room, and seems a little subdued playing it straight. But the Tenacious D prankster does sneak in some of the improvisational scatting his fans love -- a much-needed, all-too-brief reminder of how going outside the box is supposed to feel. Too bad the Black-Winslet storyline gets the short shrift, given only a hasty romantic angle after she's already spent considerable time befriending an octogenarian screenwriter. Diaz' high-maintenance film editor gets more celluloid, even though she's harder to warm up to -- and not just because she's in an actual wintry environment. Law's charm makes that task a little easier, especially when a surprise revelation gives the impossibly handsome womanizer -- both onscreen and in real life -- some extra dimension. The Holiday may not be as different as its director envisioned, but the target audience should be happy enough in these familiar surroundings.
by Derek Armstrong review