A little ditty about Jack & Diane

"Something's Gotta Give" is a standard romantic comedy in most respects, but it challenges a frequent convention of the genre. It's about an aging man (Jack Nicholson) who realizes that the latest young woman he's chasing (Amanda Peet) is, well, young - and that her mom (Diane Keaton) would be a more interesting and insightful companion. Maybe sexier, too.

What a change from all those movies where stars like Clint Eastwood and Woody Allen are positively panted after by women a fraction of their age. On top of this, 30-something Keanu Reeves falls for Keaton's character as well, introducing that rarest of cinematic rarities, a younger guy in love with an older gal!

There's nothing new about winter-spring pairings, of course. For example, remember those '50s films where Audrey Hepburn ended up with the likes of Humphrey Bogart and Fred Astaire? Nor is "Something's Gotta Give" likely to spark any lasting shifts, even if it's the holiday hit I expect it to be. Still, it's refreshing to see movie relationships that break today's usual molds.

In other regards, Nancy Meyers's new comedy is as removed from everyday reality as most Hollywood fantasies. The story begins with Nicholson's character, a well-heeled businessman, becoming ill from the stress of his age- inappropriate behavior.

Also in the love quadrangle are Reeves as his well-heeled physician, Keaton as a well-heeled playwright, and Peet as her well-heeled daughter. In fact, just about everyone in the picture is well-heeled, with snazzy cars, nifty clothes, and leisure hours in the Hamptons to prove it. That's a steady reminder that "Something's Gotta Give" is a carefully calculated variation on those Audrey Hepburn movies, not the start of a trend toward more realistic Tinseltown tales.

Other reminders also abound. Why should we believe Keaton's character is "the most important woman playwright since Lillian Hellman," for instance, when the film's specimens of her work seem anything but distinguished?

Movies like this are meant to amuse and entertain, though, not instruct. Meyers's latest is worth seeing for its offbeat story, its tantalizing settings, and most of all, its spot-on acting, especially by Keaton and Nicholson, whose amazing chemistry doesn't quit for a second.

"Something's Gotta Give," all right - namely the Oscar vote, which owes at least a couple of nominations for these finely tuned comic performances.

Rated PG-13; contains sex and vulgarity.

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