A strained attempt to re-create the smart, charming ardor of British comedies of the past, this occasionally spirited but mostly tiresome conception wastes the considerable talents of a large, gifted cast. Hugh Laurie and Joely Richardson are appealing performers on their own, but together they seem wildly miscast, with almost no discernible chemistry to propel such a thinly conceived tale. The movie comes to life in small doses, mainly with the help of trusty supporting players like Joanna Lumley and Rowan Atkinson, but Ben Elton's handling is tame and undistinguished, despite the fact that it is based on one of his own novels. This picture is far too sprawling and innocuous to make much of an impression; an ill-fated attempt to re-create the humble pleasures of romantic films of old just doesn't come off. The film opened in the U.S. to very disappointing returns, after a similarly lackluster take in its native U.K.