The kind of benign, swooningly humanist crowd-pleaser Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules, Chocolat) could make in his sleep (and by this point, possibly does), Salmon mostly sacrifices the political satire and epistolary structure of Paul Torday's source novel in favor of cute, if strained, rom-com shenanigans. If you're not getting enough of that from network TV, this movie's for you. Salmon, which sets up its premise and expectations in the title, concerns London fisheries specialist Fred Jones (Ewan McGregor), tasked by the prime minister's flack (Kristin Scott Thomas) to export British salmon to a Yemeni river at the request of a sheikh (Amr Waked) with a jones for fly-fishing. The sheikh's real-estate assistant (Emily Blunt) tags along to help and, in the process, entices the unhappily married Jones into romance and Hallström-ian self-actualization. The first section of the film deploys chipper barbs at the expense of career bureaucrats, which is funny and effective—Scott Thomas, who brings the raunch, is particularly good—but once McGregor and Blunt start dissecting their complicated feelings for each other, things turn unexpectedly dire. They're a ridiculously attractive and likable couple, but Hallström overwhelms them (and the lush Scottish and Moroccan locations, and us) with his customary brand of lightweight heavy-handedness.
Blunt and McGregor look great together; pity about the script.
Opens Fri., March 23 at Guild 45th and other theaters. Rated PG-13. 107 minutes.