By RUSSELL SCOTT SMITH
What a weird summer for movie romance.
The hottest couple of the season was Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres – playing fish, for goodness sake, in a G-rated movie.
Kate Hudson and Luke Wilson were a cute idea, but in the wrong film, the lackluster “Alex and Emma.”
RenÈe Zellweger and Ewan McGregor never really were “Down With Love.”
And the less said about Jen and Ben, the better.
But now that “Gigli” and the rest of the summer duds are gone, it’s time to move on to fall movies and some on-screen couples with truly sparkling chemistry.
Here are the ones we’re most excited about:
* JASON BIGGS & CHRISTINA RICCI “Anything Else” (Sept. 19)
No, Woody Allen does not romance the 23-year-old Ricci in his newest romantic comedy, contrary to rumor.
Instead, Woody’s latest features a romance between Ricci – who plays a flaky Annie Hall type – and “American Pie” guy Biggs, 25. This wasn’t the first time the pair got in bed together; Ricci and Biggs also have sex scenes in the yet-to-be-released “Prozac Nation.”
“Jason is really sweet,” Ricci tells USA Today. “I could say to him, ‘Don’t move that arm. See that nipple over there? Cover it.’ ”
* BEN STILLER & DREW BARRYMORE “Duplex” (Sept. 26)
This odd couple made the gossip pages last March while they were filming this dark comedy with director Danny DeVito in Brooklyn.
During a night out at Lotus, recently divorced Drew got out on the dance floor with the very married Stiller – even tearing off her cardigan.
It was all in fun, but test audiences say some of that goofy electricity translates to the screen. Barrymore and Stiller play a young NYC couple who plot to kill their upstairs tenant, a seemingly sweet old lady who’s actually the neighbor from hell.
* GEORGE CLOONEY & CATHERINE ZETA-JONES “Intolerable Cruelty” (Oct. 10)
In this new comedy from the Coen brothers (“O Brother, Where Art Thou?”), Clooney plays a bulldog divorce attorney who meets his match in champion gold digger Zeta-Jones. She marries him, then they divorce and a heavyweight battle of the sexes occurs.
“We’re very similar,” Zeta-Jones recently said of Clooney, who became a pal during filming in Las Vegas last summer. “There’s some movie magic there.”
* MEG RYAN & MARK RUFFALO “In the Cut” (Oct. 24)
Remember that fake-orgasm scene in “When Harry Met Sally”?
Get ready for some real ones in this intense erotic thriller about an NYU English professor who falls for a tough homicide detective.
Test audiences are raving about Ruffalo and Ryan’s explicit sex scenes – and not only because Ryan gets naked on screen for the first time.
Oscar-winning director Jane Campion has a way with non-exploitative but very realistic love scenes (Harvey Keitel and Holly Hunter in “The Piano” come to mind), and “In the Cut” has given many a new-found respect for Ryan.
“It’s like when Michelle Pfeiffer took it to that next level in ‘Dangerous Liaisons,’ ” says “In the Cut” producer Laurie Parker. “Meg finally shows us what she can do.”
* NICOLE KIDMAN & JUDE LAW “Cold Mountain” (Dec. 25)
We’re not so sure about Nicole’s sweaty clinch with Anthony Hopkins in “The Human Stain,” opening Sept. 26.
But we’re excited to see Kidman with Law in this Civil War love story directed by Anthony Minghella (“The English Patient”).
They play sweethearts from a Southern mountain village who must patch up their love after Law, a Confederate soldier, is wounded in the war.
Kidman won a libel suit last month against a British tabloid that ran a story about an alleged canoodle between them.
But we really want to see their on-screen chemistry, which has already sparked some Oscar buzz.