March 12, 2010

She's out of My League

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A movie review by James Berardinelli



She's out of My League

ROMANCE/COMEDY:

United States, 2010

U.S. Release Date:

2010-03-12

Running Length:

1:45

MPAA Classification:

R (Sexual Content, Profanity, Nudity)

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

2.35:1

Cast:

Jay Baruchel, Alice Eve, T.J. Miller, Mike Vogel, Nate Torrence, Lindsay Sloane, Krysten Ritter

Director:

Jim Field Smith

Screenplay:

Sean Anders & John Morris

Cinematography:

Jim Denault

Music:

Michael Andrews

U.S. Distributor:

Paramount Pictures

Subtitles:

none


There are a variety of ways one can evaluate the effectiveness of standard-order romantic comedies. Mine is to ask three questions: (1) Do I like the characters? (2) Do I sense chemistry between them? (3) Am I rooting for them to be together at the end? If the answer is "yes" across-the-board, it's an easy enough call to recommend the movie to fans of the genre. That's the case with She's out of My League. There's nothing special about the movie except that it does what it sets out to do. It is disposable entertainment but I didn't regret giving up two hours of my life and $8.50 to see it. That may sound a little like damning with faint praise, but so few romantic comedies achieve even that moderate level of competence that it should be considered an endorsement.

Kirk (Jay Baruchel) is a "5" on the scale of attractiveness. His buddies Stainer (T.J. Miller), Jack (Mike Vogel), and Devon (Nate Torrence) agree on this and make sure he knows it. Kirk is a nice guy with a self-deprecating sense of humor and a quiet sense of confidence, but he's not any woman's idea of Prince Charming. So it's with befuddlement that his friends watch as Kirk becomes involved with Molly (Alice Eve), a certified "10." (Bo Derek, eat your heart out.) Molly, it seems, sees beneath Kirk's average exterior and identifies something exceptional inside him, much to the shock of her best friend, Patty (Krysten Ritter). With the laws of physical attractiveness, which state that couples separated by more than "2" on the numerical scale cannot succeed, aligned against them, do Kirk and Molly have a chance? Will it be considered a spoiler if I answer that question?

She's out of My League features examples of unfunny, sophomoric humor of the sort that few R-rated romantic comedies can escape. There are numerous missteps, but I'll mention a few. One involves shaving pubic hair, another focuses on stained trousers, and a third features fractious family interaction at a family dinner. Fortunately, the obligatory romantic complications (which ivariably involve old girlfriends and/or boyfriends) are treated as throw-away sidelights and are given about as much screen time as they deserve. Director Jim Field Smith, a Brit making his Hollywood feature debut, is more concerned with the mechanisms that sustain a relationship between a physically attractive woman and an average guy. He uses allusions to Disney cartoons such as Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast to drive home his point. The attraction between Kirk and Molly transcends physical appearance - our ability to "get" that means Smith has done his job.

Jay Baruchel, who typically gets saddled with the nerd/loser role, is provided with the opportunity to blossom a little as Kirk. He's still geeky, but there's something charismatic about him and he doesn't seem as bumbling as, say, Jason Biggs, who played the same kinds of parts a decade ago. Alice Eve, showing considerably less skin than she did in Crossing Over (in which she played the Aussie immigrant who slept with Ray Liotta's character), is sprightly and attractive. Strangely, however, in her scenes with Krysten Ritter, who plays her sidekick, she is frequently overshadowed. That's a good thing for Ritter but not necessarily for the movie, since it argues that perhaps Ritter's character should have had a larger part. At any rate, Baruchel and Eve make a nice couple and none of the satellite characters are annoying beyond being bearable.

The humor gets raunchy enough to earn the "R" rating, but in some ways, it's pretty tame, especially in the wake of The Hangover. In fact, its sex farce elements are on a comparable level with the hair gel scene in There's Something about Mary. That was daring in the '90s but seems low-key by today's standards. She's out of My League offers a few chuckles, but comedy isn't its strong suit. This movie is intended to be enjoyed for its breezy, unforced pairing of two mismatched lovers. That's what it's about and that's where it works. In keeping with the film's numerology obsession, I'll say this: it's neither a "5" nor a "10," but somewhere in between.

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