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Originally published Thursday, October 30, 2008 at 2:00 PM

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Movie Review

Despite an appealing cast, "The Other End of the Line" goes nowhere

"The Other End of the Line": An appealing cast, led by Jesse Metcalfe and Shriya Saran, can't save this cookie-cutter romantic comedy about an Indian woman who uses a flawless American accent to flirt with a credit-card client.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Shriya Saran and Jesse Metcalfe star in cookie-cutter romance "The Other End of the Line."

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METRO GOLDWYN MAYER

Shriya Saran and Jesse Metcalfe star in cookie-cutter romance "The Other End of the Line."

Movie review 2 stars

"The Other End of the Line," with Shriya Saran, Jesse Metcalfe. Directed by James Dodson, from a screenplay by Tracey Jackson. 106 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some suggestive material. Metro.

Set partly in the Bay Area, "The Other End of the Line" is the kind of cookie-cutter romantic comedy that can't resist flooding its soundtrack with "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."

Indeed, whenever a scene threatens to sag or a character fails to register, there's usually a well-worn pop standard — "Pretty Woman," "The Way You Look Tonight," "Falling in Love With You" — that turns up to make an attempted rescue.

The writer, Tracey Jackson, seems never to have met a moldy plot device that couldn't be wholeheartedly embraced. The director, James Dodson, underlines the clichés by supplying postcard views of the locations. These do nothing to freshen the formula.

Too bad, because the cast is consistently appealing. Jesse Metcalfe, a "Desperate Housewives" regular who suggests Joshua Jackson in looks and manner, almost succeeds in making us care about the rather shallow hero, an ad salesman with the improbable name of Granger Woodruff.

Indian actress Shriya Saran does a nimble job of suggesting why her character, the already engaged Priya Sethi, would fall for him. Priya, who works in India for a bank-card agency, uses a flawless American accent and pretends to be an American based in San Francisco.

While she's informing Granger about fraudulent charges on his card, the two start flirting on the phone. When his arrogant girlfriend walks out on him, Granger and Priya agree to meet at a California hotel. Farcical complications ensue, most of them contrived and none of them surprising.

You can imagine Metcalfe and Saran charming their way through remakes of "Pillow Talk" or "Bells Are Ringing," two mistaken-identity 1950s classics that surely inspired Jackson and Dodson. The 21st-century twists are reminiscent of last year's Seattle-based comedy, "Outsourced," which had a lot more wit and style.

For comic relief, "The Other End of the Line" relies largely on Larry Miller, cast as a hotel executive who doesn't think much of Granger until he connects with his new Indian girlfriend. Priya's prying family, led by her slapstick-prone father, are evidently supposed to be funny.

By the time the filmmakers have set up all the story lines that will blend for a very long third act, the predictability factor has become all but unbearable. Who do you have to pay to get out of this movie?

John Hartl: johnhartl@yahoo.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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