She's a 10, he's a 5. Doing the math, Kimberly Gadette wrestles with other numbers: after 2.5 months of 1 disastrous rom-com after another, can this film, debuting in Month #3, accrue enough points to end up in the plus column?
Like kudzu or English ivy, Jay Baruchel's Kirk grows on you. A fidgety string bean of a fellow sporting a hairdo that looks as if it's combed the wrong way, frequently screwing up his face in a defensive squint as if to anticipate the next blow to his self-confidence, he is at first mildly annoying. Then sort of OK. Then, grudgingly, our hero ... an average schmo who's riding high if a pretty girl gifts him with a casual smile.
This is Judd Apatow territory, addressing the loser guy who somehow wins the hand of a female much higher up on the food chain – except that in this case, the man-children are a decade younger. Rather than bumping their collective heads up against forty, these underachievers are late twentysomethings who loiter around the Pittsburgh Airport's food court when they're not slumping into work, often late, as airport security personnel. Close friends since childhood, the four co-workers are: T.J. Miller's Stainer, the obnoxious know-it-all who's reduced the love connection down to a vague numeric science; Mike Vogel's Jack, a potential dreamboat if he had more ambition and/or brain power; Nate Torrence's Devon, a happy pudge of a fellow who filters his world through Disney's Magic Kingdom; and Kirk, our hesitant hero.
When Alice Eve's Molly walks through the airport terminal, we can almost hear the dropped jaws landing hard on the ground -- which is nothing out of the ordinary for this blonde bombshell (calling to mind a young Christie Brinkley). However, what's extraordinary is the fact that after Kirk does her a small kindness, she pursues him. It's difficult to say who's more shocked -- Kirk or his derisive friends and family. Or us, shaking our heads at the fact that a successful attorney turned even more successful party planner, possessing bucks, brains and beauty, would ever think of going out with this nice but nebbishy fellow. A multi-degreed miss chasing after a guy devoid of higher education, whose resume is even thinner than his wallet? What is this, the Twilight Zone of dating?
It seems as if the filmmakers themselves had doubts as to how to sell this mismatched pair as a potential couple. What to do when you can't write a convincing courtship scene? Pump up the soundtrack. During their first official date, Kirk and Molly's dialogue is all but drowned out. Worse, the next scene consists of that current cheap cinematic ploy, in which a couple mimes wordless delight in each other's company – heads thrown back in paroxysms of glee, limbs accidentally brushed, shoves playfully exchanged – while a cloying pop song plays at a Spinal Tap volume of "11." This lazy way of showing a budding courtship robs us of further insight into who these people are, depicted not just by what they say but what they omit, whitewashing the truth while painting themselves in the best light possible.
In a bit reminiscent of Apatow, we revisit frantic male hair removal in anticipation of romance. But unlike The 40 Year Old Virgin, this particular grooming occurs south of the waistline. Not only is it the comedic highlight of the film, it almost makes up for the grotesque soundtrack. Almost.
Alice Eve plays Molly with a lovely radiance, giving the film a thoughtful gravity that it otherwise lacks. No air-headed blonde here, she comes off smart and sincere, able to walk the narrow line between confident and arrogant. Of the three buddies, it's the Nate Torrence show, exploiting every one of his comic moments for all their worth. As for Jay Baruchel, this first starring vehicle proves that this 90-pound weakling is surprisingly charismatic enough to carry a film. Hopefully next time around he'll get more support from a smarter script.
Speaking of which, Sean Anders and John Morris' writing is particularly poor in characterizing Kirk's family and the couple's two ex-beaus who pop straight out of a cardboard box, a bunch of buffoons whose inexplicable contempt becomes tiresome within minutes of their first onscreen appearance. (Kettle? The Pot called and left you a really nasty message.) On the other, far more attractive hand, we have Molly and her friends, the airbrushed denizens of a cushy rom-com land. Neither world is completely credible.
The result: like a confused Kirk standing at the crossroads of his own life, this film isn't sure what it is. Derisive, sophomoric humor or perky rom-com? Underwear jokes or glowing life lessons on personal evolution?
Which leads to this review, sitting squarely in the middle of the bell curve. On the plus side: The charm of the leads and some truly unique, laugh-out-loud comic moments. Cancelled out by the negative: the 2-D drudge of poorly-sketched characters, a yowling soundtrack and a faltering script that doesn't add up.
Rating on a scale of 5 planes stuck on the tarmac: 2.5
Release date: US = 12 March 2010; UK = 4 June 2010
Directed by: Jim Field Smith
Written by: Sean Anders & John Morris
Cast: Jay Baruchel, Alice Eve, T.J. Miller, Mike Vogel, Nate Torrence,
Krysten Ritter, Geoff Stults, Lindsay Sloane, Debra Jo Rupp
Rating: US = R; UK = 15
Running time: 104 minutes