Joel Coen’s black-hearted romantic comedy about divorce law and pre-nups is surprisingly stilted and arid. All the trademark Cohen quirks and quicksilver banter are present and accounted for, but the movie’s warped bouts of zaniness (Geoffrey Rush steals the opening five minutes) get little help from its frigid characters — and this despite tons of star-power.
Bored, narcissistic LA divorce attorney Miles Massey (George Clooney) outfoxes gold-digger Marylin Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones) after she tries taking down her gullible first husband. She gets zilch. Marylin takes the loss in stride and sets her sights on oil tycoon Howard D. Doyle (Billy Bob Thornton), who eats the pre-up as a wedding gift. After another divorce, Marilyn-smitten Miles drops his guard and revenge-smitten Marilyn counters.
Though it tries oh-so-hard to earn entry into the 1930s screwball pantheon, the project falls woefully short. That’s mostly because Clooney and Zeta-Jones — despite an array of one-liners — are all spill and shills, toy soldiers in the Cohen cause. Out-of-synch Zeta-Jones does little more than spoof an extended cameo. Not this time, boys.