By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated May 19, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

The air smells sweet and there’s a thrumming beat in Bossa Nova, a sexy love story that’s probably selling armchair travelers a coffee-bagful of cliches about the aphrodisiacal powers of the lilting Brazilian music, but who cares that it’s South American malarkey? The various men and women sniffing for romance in this summery comedy all look like regular people, and their happiness, good humor, and success become an invitation for us all to go dancing, or at least to visit the beautiful scenery so lushly shot.

Brazilian director Bruno Barreto (Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands) gives a bouquet to his wife, Amy Irving, casting her as a melancholy American widow who catches the eye of a nice, middle-aged gent (Antonio Fagundes) dumped by his wife. Another romantic on the prowl, a friendly student of English (Drica Moraes), swears by Internet dating, where she falls for an ”artist” named ”Gary” who lives in ”SoHo.” See Bossa Nova now and wring an unexpected laugh from Gary’s e-mail billet-doux that begins ”Love is a virus….” B