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'Imagine' that Gay romance-comedy brings little new to the genre

If the back ain't broke, don't fix it.

"Imagine Me & You," a new British film written and directed by a man named Ol Parker, is a good idea on paper, perhaps; it edges the romantic-comedy genre to the cliff of modern sexual politics. Gently, calmly, carefully, and with a buffoonish British accent in the vein of Hugh Grant, it makes us laugh uncomfortably at the fact that -- yes! -- women do indeed fall in love with other women. And men with men, and so on.

Imagine the relief, then, when in this current gay film revolution, "Imagine Me & You" puts the struggle to overcome this formerly passe phenomenon in the hands of the unrequited lovers and not in those of its detractors. (It's what Ennis and Jack face eloquently in "Brokeback Mountain," though their dilemma is far more alien to them than in this film's modern London setting.) Call it social progress lite.

I'm glad we have a film to tell us it's OK to fall in love, and that falling in love is most often a very hard thing to do. Without it, I don't know what I would have done. Perhaps lived in a cave.

Piper Perabo, who most memorably hiked her jeans up for some cow-tippin', beer-lovin' line-dancing in "Coyote Ugly," is Rachel, a British newlywed who, when walking down the aisle to meet her charming and pretty about-to-be-husband Heck (Matthew Goode), catches a glimpse of the wedding's florist, Luce (Lena Headey).

It's all that love-at-first-sight and I-can't-take-my-eyes-off-you kind of love. Not universal, but certainly idealistic and lovely at times. Rachel goes through the motions of marrying her man, living the married life with her best friend, and oh, by the way, sneaking by Luce's flower shop to casually say hello and trip on her words.

Few today will contest the scenario in this matinee romance. Perhaps we're too conditioned to the plight of a love triangle gone askew (read: "crossing the street," as Rachel calls it, to the other gender), that it doesn't enlighten anymore. Still, all the better: We're enlightened, let's move on. The trouble here is that for a few random moments it only merely manages to entice or excite, and for a romantic comedy, that's a shame.

Filling in the gaps, we're spoon-fed the same British humor we initially swooned for ("Four Weddings and a Funeral") and later revolted against (almost every Hugh Grant movie since, save "Love, Actually"). Bumbling middle-aged parents squabble about their age-old and festering complacency; lonesome bridesmaids attract only the ugliest groomsmen at the reception; the best man philanders around only to be rejected by the bridesmaids in an ironic twist of something or other. What a vicious cycle.

Even the inclusion of the song from which the film gets its title -- actually, a lyric, from "Happy Together" by the Turtles -- is shoved down our throats, as if we didn't expect it to pop up before the credits roll.

Rachel's father, Ned (Anthony Head), and young sister, oddly named "H" (Boo Jackson), are exceptions to this rule. Dad drunkenly muses about his wife's many-centuries-old age while little H is grown up past her years and poses oddly metaphorical questions about why and how the world evolves. These two are the bearers of this review's one-and-a-half stars, and they earn it.

Let it be said that the movie's premise may not be revolutionary for most audiences, but that's not to say it can't be for those on the fringe of its pathos or perspectives. Certainly these three lovers are faulty only of their own feelings, and even then they only rarely act irrationally in spite of them. (Infidelity is still a no-no in Hollywood and abroad, it would seem.) I would imagine this film could open the eyes of those who still can't wrap their heads around such an entanglement.

But for the rest of us, those who have seen enough episodic television to catch a falling storyline 40 minutes before it hits, it's far less eventful than most romantic comedies. Watching sausage be made is perhaps more enlightening.

With "Imagine Me & You," it's not so much our imagination that needs regeneration; it's the inspiration behind it. Few here will disagree, I suspect: The song was better.

1.5 stars (out of 4) IMAGINE ME & YOU

STARRING: Piper Perabo and Lena Headey


RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes

RATING: R for mild language and sexual situations.

THE LOWDOWN: Two young Brits unexpectedly fall in love after one designs flowers for the other's wedding.

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