Derivative Pap, Actually: He’s Just Not That Into You Movie Review

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I am not the target market for He’s Just Not That Into You. Even putting my Y-chromosomes and dangly bits aside for a moment, my disdain for the source material alone is enough to put me outside the target demographic of single women who can’t figure out that a guy who treats them like crap might not like them. I have never kvetched with a gaggle of my best guyfriends over whether the type of shoes a girl was wearing might change the meaning of her unfulfilled promise to call me later.

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I worked at a bookstore when Greg Behrendt’s inexplicably popular book first rocketed to the top of the bestseller lists, and even then I was mystified by its success. While I didn’t read it outright, I did glance through it a few times to the point where I feel confident that I understand its premise of laying bare the male psyche for female readers. What I don’t understand is the appeal. None of the author’s points were insightful enough for true self-help stuff, nor were they funny enough for pure comedy.

It seemd like a bunch of glaringly obvious observations about men’s romantic behavior injected into some mildly amusing scenarios and anecdotes.

And it was. That summary could serve as the log line for the film version as well.

The performances are all solid enough and the film never descends to palpable awfulness, but it never transcends its source material to become anything better than a mildly inoffensive exercise in bland.It tries for all the right notes and never totally fails to hit them, but it elicits more smirks than laughs (although there are a few chuckles).

The problem isn’t that there are too many stories, but the film does linger on a few for too long and crams too much action into them. I suppose that to illustrate the book’s advice, the movie had to have several different stages of relationship to work with, but there is no real economy of storytelling. The longstanding tension between Ben Affleck and Jennifer Aniston over not getting married despite seven years of being together, for example sputters on long after the audience gets the point. Bradley Cooper once again plays kind of a douchebag, but does an excellent job at making his part of a married man driven to stray by the wily charms of skinny-dipping yoga instructor Scarlett Johansen into a relatable character.

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I like a good romantic comedy as much as the next guy. I have no problem with films designed to tackle issues of dating, love, and romance although the vast majority of them seem kind of stupid. Billed as a date movie, He’s Just Not That Into You certainly delivers the goods. It is mildly amusing, and not a complete waste of time. This one might have been better than average: a large cast of photogenic characters at various stages of romantic entanglement play out their stories in a series of slightly interconnected vignettes. But I know Love, Actually. I have seen Love, Actually. And this film, sir, is no Love, Actually.

Two Candy Hearts (Out of Five):

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