This film is to ‘60s sex comedies what last year’s “Far From Heaven” was to ‘50s melodramas: an irresistible throwback to the glamour, wit and style that used to characterise Hollywood. “Down With Love” is basically an unofficial remake of “Pillow Talk”, the Oscar-winning 1959 romantic comedy about a shameless skirt-chaser who dons a fake Southern accent to seduce a feminist who’s wise to his sleazy ways but knows only his telephone voice.

Taking over for Rock Hudson is Ewan McGregor as “ladies man man’s man man about town” Catcher Block, a star journalist for Know (“the magazine for men in the know”) who’s asked by his neurotic editor (David Hyde Pierce) to do a story on Barbara Novak (Renee Zellwegger emulating Doris Day), an author who’s written a controversial bestseller urging women to say “down with love”. Her theory is that the reason women aren’t respected in the workplace and in society is because they’re distracted by love; if they give it up and start asserting themselves, having meaningless sex and generally acting like men do, equality will finally be achieved. Barbara and Catcher are obviously at odds and get on each other’s bad side before they even met! This leads Block to cook up a plan to expose Novak as a phony by making her fall in love with him, or actually fictitious NASA astronaut Marjor Zip Martin. Cue the Southern accent!

The homage doesn’t stop with the storyline: every aspect of “Down With Love” is wonderfully retro, right from the old painted 20th Century Fox logo to the bright, dreamlike Cinemascope cinematography to the playful lounge music score to the outrageously colorful sets and clothes to the use of matte paintings, projected backdrops and split screens… Every shot is a delight and you find yourself grinning through the whole film. Making the experience even more enjoyable is the cast. Ewan McGregor is as cool and charming as ever and Renee Zellwegger lets loose again after the smug cynicism of “Chicago”. As unattractive as she was in that film, here she looks healthy and glowing and sexy as hell and McGregor and her make a great screen couple. David Hyde Pierce gets a few laughs as the sidekick and so do SNL’s Rachel Dratch and Chris Parnell in bit parts.

The plot mechanics are contrived and the humor is often corny, but it’s true to the tone of the movies which inspired it. How can you not get a kick out of something as campy as the dating montage or all the irreverence and innuendo? There’s a danger the film could end up a clever but forgettable little spoof, but all chance of that vanishes with Renee Zellwegger’s hilarious-ballsy-touching-over-the-top-wonderful-BRILLIANT third act monologue. And as if that wasn’t enough, the movie ends with a song and dance number gleefully performed by Renee and Ewan!

Between this and “Bring It On” (not to mention the underrated “The Weird Al Show” and a couple of Disney TV movies), Peyton Reed is establishing himself as a filmmaker who can do feel-good yet subversive bubble gum movies like any other. I can’t wait to see him tackle “The Fantastic Four” flick, but for now I’m damn happy with “Down With Love”.