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Serendipity

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Serendipity

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Lifestyle porn masquerading as a romantic comedy, Serendipity worships brazenly at the church of Ephron with its tourist's-eye view of adorable, upwardly mobile young professionals falling in love against an idyllic, crime-free urban backdrop filled with delightful shops and eateries. Fresh off America's Sweethearts, John Cusack steps into ill-considered romantic-leading-man duty yet again as an involved television producer who meets cute with similarly involved Kate Beckinsale when they simultaneously descend upon the same pair of designer gloves. After a pleasant evening together, Cusack suggests they keep in touch, but Beckinsale, evidently afflicted with a form of psychosis that views romance as equal parts scavenger hunt, masochistic ordeal, and philosophical experiment, argues that they're better off leaving their relationship up to fate. Several years later, both are engaged to seemingly ideal partners, but neither can forget the time they spent together. Heeding the old maxim that the surest way to a woman's heart is through wholesale violation of her privacy, Cusack and sidekick Jeremy Piven engage in a frantic search to discover Beckinsale's identity from her credit-card receipt. Meanwhile, she reconsiders her upcoming nuptials. Banking far too hard on the lukewarm chemistry of its leads, Serendipity aspires to sweeping, outsized romance, but remains frustratingly earthbound. Cusack's search for Beckinsale feels less like the quixotic quest of a dreamer waking up to romantic feelings he never realized he had than the narcissistic meandering of a man inspired by vague curiosity and a dogged insistence on following his mission through to the bitter end. Similarly, Beckinsale's blind belief in the power of fate feels not so much like a charming bit of wide-eyed romanticism as like a narcissistic desire to avoid taking responsibility for her behavior. The muted direction by Town And Country veteran Peter Chelsom keeps the film from entering the grating upper registers of You've Got Mail, but Serendipity still seems about as charming, spontaneous, and unpredictable as a Skinner box.