While a film about a hairdressing competition in a small English city may sound instantly unappealing, particularly in the wake of so many underdogs-make-good Brit films, Alan Rickman and Natasha Richardson's lead roles go a long way toward setting Blow Dry apart from the competition. Sadly, just about every other aspect of the film proves about as well conceived as a car made out of gum wrappers. Ominously credited as "based on the screenplay Never Better" by Full Monty scribe Simon Beaufoy, it lists no additional writers and even feels like an anonymous, by-committee attempt to rework the formula The Full Monty exploited so well: Assemble a half-dozen or so quirky and/or put-upon characters, give them a seemingly impossible goal, and hope that the comedy balances out the pathos. This last element troubles Blow Dry the most. Richardson and Rickman star as divorced hairdressers who haven't spoken since Richardson ran off with Rickman's hair-model partner Rachel Griffiths. When Richardson learns that her latest bout of chemotherapy has had little effect on her cancer, she's prompted, perhaps by the first of the score's countless plaintive piano cues, to reunite the old gang to have a go at the national hairdressing title. But old resentment and an assemblage of flamboyant, cutthroat competitors are equally threatening to their progress. As serious as a statesman's funeral, Blow Dry plays as if director Paddy Breathnach were laboring under the illusion of shooting a lost Ibsen play. Imagining Best In Show remade as a melodrama attempting to explore the angst behind the pageantry of the dog-show scene will offer some idea of the disastrous miscalculation at work. Despite scattershot attempts at comedy (some involving corpses) and the occasional montage sequence set to Bachman Turner Overdrive's "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet," Blow Dry is, by and large, a shameless tearjerker. It's not above forcing Richardson to remove her wig and run vomiting to the toilet to goose the dramatic tension, or wringing an elderly blind woman for life-affirming value. If tying a sack of kittens to a railroad track had fit the story in any way, Blow Dry would have tried that, too.