“Crazy” and “stupid” are two adjectives that can be used to describe not only love, but this movie. Ultimately, it’s people doing crazy, stupid things in the name of love … for two hours.
Crazy, Stupid, Love
At Quality 16 and Rave
Cal (Steve Carell, “Date Night) has been married to Emily (Julianne Moore, “The Kids Are All Right”) for a very long time. In fact, she’s the only woman he’s ever been with, but she cheats on him. Luckily, Cal runs into Jacob (Ryan Gosling, “Blue Valentine”), who gives him a makeover. Cal is told that he should never wear New Balance sneakers (unless he is in a fraternity or Steve Jobs), and is taught how to pick up women. Incidentally, there are many beautiful women in his town who are just waiting to be hit on by 40-and-up gentlemen. In a “Love Actually” fashion, there are several side plots that are forced, with bizarre twists and the might of the scriptwriters, to connect at the end.
The movie doesn’t sound all that terrible — in fact, it sounds like the perfect carefree summer movie. It’s fluff, a kind of make-over movie for guys. Except, the movie has no charm and is really just cringe-inducingly embarrassing at times, like when Cal’s 17-year-old babysitter takes sexy nude photos of herself to send to an older man. There’s nothing cute about that. In fact, that’s a serious issue that doesn’t make for lighthearted fun.
Despite this oversight, the vast majority of the movie’s humor doesn’t depend on outrageous jokes or big explosions. It’s subtle, restrained, and much more situational. At the same time, though, the movie is not astute. There are no biting insights and it doesn’t really explore the relationships and the love between the characters
Even Steve Carell himself, the master of dramatic awkward situations as demonstrated by his stint as Michael on TV’s “The Office,” just can’t pull off that kind of comedy in this movie. The problem is that Carell is trying to play the nice guy, the perfect dad who gets stuck in bad situations instead of causing them. And that’s not funny. At rare moments, he does manage to come through as his comical self, but only briefly, and when his character is drunkenly and bitterly berating a cocktail waitress, or, as he calls her a “cocktail servant.”
The rest of the cast, while talented, also struggles a bit. Gosling just acts as a womanizing guru with perfectly chiseled abs and impeccable dress sense. But he’s a shallow character and when he does undergo a change and falls in love, it’s hard to understand why. His revealing that he likes to buy things off of infomercials doesn’t lay bare to the audience the depths of the character’s soul.
And that’s a consistent problem with the movie, not just with Gosling’s character — though there’s an earnest attempt to reveal the inner workings of the characters and their relationships, any insight is lost in the chaotic plotline and awkward situational comedy.