Heavily influenced by "Sex and the City," How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days attempts to be the ultimate chick flick. For an article she is writing for her glossy magazine, Andie (Kate Hudson) must make a man fall for her and then drive him away in the allotted time period by doing all those clueless things women can be guilty of (being too clingy, inappropriately naming his penis, moving into his flat too fast, disrupting his poker night). Meanwhile, to land an important diamond account, adman Ben (Matthew McConaughey), a serial lothario, must pass muster with his boss by making a woman fall madly in love with him. Guess who these two find to be each other's romantic patsy?

Director Donald Petrie sets the action in a typical Manhattan/Cond Nast dream world of chic boites, cushy offices, groovy apartments, fantastic on-the-floor Knick game tickets, and photographs it with more soft focus than in any Doris Day-Rock Hudson film. The movie is clever, up to a point, and then becomes strained in the manner of a lot of the romantic comedies of the '40s. By that time, Hollywood had exhausted most of the fresh screwball formulae of the previous decade, and most of those career-woman-looking-for-love farces with Rosalind Russell and Claudette Colbert had a desperate, flailing quality--and an unseemly emphasis on comic cruelty--which is shared by this film. The materialistic agendas of both lead characters are unavoidably off-putting (not to mention the usual sappy love montages, which Hollywood must stop.) The denouement is the same tired, embarrassment-making, public declaration of mutual love which seems to afflict every modern romantic comedy from Notting Hill to Maid in Manhattan.

Hudson is charming and looks a dream in outfits and hairstyles that bespeak a care which eluded Wayne Wang's handling of Maid in Manhattan, but she is forced to overdo the precocious obnoxiousness in her attempts to turn Ben off. (A scene in which she interrupts that poker night is particularly painful.) She has blessedly inherited the farcical twinkle of her mother, Goldie Hawn, but it is an admitted stretch to imagine her here as a really serious journalist who would much rather be writing about world politics and the ecosystem instead of diets and nail wraps. McConaughey does his usual sleek, somewhat preening work in a role that largely calls for him to react with teeth-gritting tolerance to Andie's antics. (He's an adept enough actor, but one rarely senses a real human being there beneath the affable good-ole-boy pose.) There is an unconvincing, highly pandering scene which has Andie really falling for Ben when she sees him in the blue-collar environs of his Staten Island family (replete with farting uncle and an endless card game in which she bonds with these "amusing" lowlifes). Kathryn Hahn is dorkily amusing as Andie's hapless girlfriend, who originally inspires the idea for the article. More use could have been made of funny Adam Goldberg, as well as Robert Klein's always welcome acerbity as Ben's boss. Bebe Neuwirth is all too convincing as Andie's icy bitch of an editor. Shalom Harlow adds to the film's glamour with her flawless, elongated beauty.

--David Noh