"Objection!", asserts the prosecuting attorney, "it still sounds a little arty-farty to me!"
It's a line from screwball laugh-a-thon Intolerable Cruelty that echoes like a pre-emptive defence from the creative team who brought you such blackly comic masterworks as Fargo and Raising Arizona.
"HIGH CLASS ACTION"
While Intolerable Cruelty is a few shades lighter than the Coen brothers' best work, any objections about lowbrow condescension are swiftly overruled in 99 minutes of high class action. What's more, let the record show that it surpasses the precedent set by Hepburn vs Grant in the case of Bringing Up Baby (1938).
George Clooney is hotshot divorce attorney Miles Massey, and Catherine Zeta-Jones his latest courtroom casualty - gold-digger Marilyn Rexroth. After stumping her efforts to fleece hubbie Rex Rexroth (Edward Herrmann), she sets about taking revenge. Oh, and oil baron Howard Doyle's hand in marriage (that's Billy Bob Thornton playing it like JR on Prozac, folks).
When Marilyn approaches Miles to outline their prenuptial agreement, he's right to smell a rat. But it's not long before the sweet scent of love is overpowering his senses.
Clooney is pitch perfect, matching Cary Grant for impeccable comic timing and deadpan delivery. Equipped with the Coens' trademark snap-crackle dialogue, he zips through the gags so fast you might actually spot his feet leave the ground.
Although lacking the whiplash tongue of Katharine Hepburn, Zeta-Jones offers a neat counterbalance, like a slow-burning flame alongside Clooney's storming performance.
The transparency of her deception can sometimes dent the credibility of their burgeoning love, although that's actually a fault of the script. Even so, it's a misdemeanour easily pardoned in a film that boasts the funniest shoot out in recent cinematic history.
The final verdict? On the charge that Intolerable Cruelty is one of the most inspired, scathing, and downright side-splitting comedies to come out of Hollywood this year: Guilty.