Monday, January 23, 2012

Review: No Strings Attached

Today we're looking at the other film about two annoyingly attractive people having regular sex. Now I'm not sure how many of you readers are lonely nerds but were I you I'd be pretty pissed at either of these films on principle (Now that I think about it I'm a bit pissed myself). Also if you are interested in checking out Part One check out my review of Friends with Benefits.

No Strings Attached came from a screenplay by Elizabeth Meriwether, originally titled “Friends with Benefits.” At some point the studio realized that there was another movie in the works with the same name and after token resistance they ultimately changed the name. Now the other movie was directed by the guy who did Fired Up. To compare this film was directed by Ivan Reitman who directed a small little film called motherf**king Ghostbusters!!! So the pedigree here is a lot more favorable. I mean Ghostbusters is one of the greatest films every made, probably the world's greatest comedy (Opinions, and all that) so you can't help but give the guy the benefit of the doubt every time. Of course just because you have to give him the benefit of the doubt doesn't mean it won't end in a car wreck.

Full review after the jump.

This scene is pretty much pointless
That's a phrase you repeat often during this flick
Since they were 14 or so Adam (Ashton Kutcher) and Emma (Natalie Portman) have bumped into each several times every few years. After Adam discovers that his famous TV star father (Kevin Kline) has been dating his ex-girlfriend he goes on a drunken quest to get someone, anyone, in his phone contacts to have sex with him. His quest leads him to Emma's apartment and (eventually) the two hook-up. But Emma is emotionally barren so she has no interest in being in a relationship. Instead she suggest they become friends with benefits.

Okay, so this is where I mention stuff I liked about the movie. Right. Something good...hmm. Well I guess I thought liked that ultimately it was the girl, not the guy, that screws the relationship back and has to win her love back. Although even with that switch they didn't take it nearly as far as they could have so it didn't even impress me that much.

That's it. That's the only thing I liked about this movie. So what didn't I like about this movie? EVERYTHIGN ELSE!!!

Okay, that's harsh. Plus as I said last Friday I'm not really the most pro-Romantic Comedy guy on Earth so take what I'm going to say with a grain of salt. But this movie is boring. It's booooring. It's so goddamn dull. In the last review I said that what would make a good romcom would be interesting leads who we can enjoy spending the two hours with. So No Strings Attached's first and most major problem is that the leads are all that likeable or interesting. First of all Emma is kind of a bitch and not very likable. She's fairly mean and distant to Adam from the get go. Plus her very long held belief of love not lasting forever doesn't have any solid reasoning behind it. Hell she's been that way at least since she was fourteen. Adam probably should have just gone for his co-worker Lucy who seemed significantly more interested and less hostile than Emma does (It's a bad sign when you find a character you want to end up with the main guy instead of the designated female lead). Speaking of Adam he doesn't really have a personalty. He's nice and sensitive, I guess, but that's about as deep as he gets. He handles the situation with Emma rather incompetently and I don't feel the urge to root for him when he's acts like he's going to convince Emma to love despite the fact that she has the emotional range of a vulcan.

Lucy: Socially awkward?  Yes
But that still puts her 50 miles ahead of Emma
Part of the is is undoubted the fault of Ashton Kutcher. Like Mila Kunis Kutcher is a veteran of That 70s Show. However where Kunis has proven to be a capable actress who gets better every year Kutcher revealed himself pretty early on in his post-sitcom career of being a severely limited actor and has not gotten any better since. Basically he can play two roles: 1) The asshole guy who is either loud, dumb or a womanizer but often all three at once (Basically Kelso from That 70s Show in varying degrees of over the top) or 2) The sensitive quite guy who doesn't have enough character traits to really display any acting chops. Basically Kutcher is a model turned actor and like most (But certainly not all) models turned actors he has very limited acting ability.

Unlike Friends with Benefits there are a lot of supporting roles present so ultimately the world feel much more populated. However most of these characters are either poorly developed or one-note, so they don’t add to much to the plot. I will mention Greta Gerwing though, not because she was especially great in this film but because I've wanted to mention her but never got around to reviewing a movie she's starred in until now. Only recently part of mainstream Hollywood Gerwing was associated with the independent film scene called “mumblecore” (I'm keeping my opinion to myself here). I would like to talk about this more in an actual mumblecore film review, but for now let's throw her up on my incredibly sexists Hottest Women in Hollywood List

#11: Amanda Seyfried 
#10: Greta Gerwing 
#9: Natalie Portman 
#8: Bryce Dallas Howard 
#7: Amy Acker 
#6: Reese Witherspoon 
#5: Kat Dennings 
#4: Anna Kendrick 
#3: Anne Hathaway 
#2: Ellen Page 
#1: Michelle Trachtenberg 

I'd like to see an independent film with her!
(No innuendo here. I seriously suspect she would have interesting insight on the subject)

I gotta stop doing this. This list is getting too goddamn long.

Getting back on track the plot of the film felt disjointed. It was like watching a bunch of scenes next to each without anything of any real substance holding them together. With Friends with Benefits the plot focused on two people who go from friends to lovers and things flowed pretty naturally. Here it's just two strangers banging until one of them tries to date the other with impossibly disastrous results. Also things were so much more serious in tone; any fun present in Friends with Benefits doesn't exist here. The jokes get reactions that range from “silent acknowledgment that there's a joke here” to “who the hell would think that was funny?” It's ends up being more “rom” than “com” while still trying to avoid being a true drama. All the while this film is basically a cookie cutter example of the genre. Not only is this the same old story but it's not even told in a particularly interesting or entertaining wall. So why should I bother with it?

This movie sucks. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed Friends with Benefits but I'm also surprised with how much I dislike this movie. I figured it would be an average film at best but with a boring plot and boring (And unlikable) leads I practically slept through this entire flick. It is true that it wasn't made for me but anyone it would appeal to can find better examples if they try. If you are a huge fan of romantic comedies then I doubt you'll care what I say about it but I will say that if you haven't seen either of these two movies than avoid this one and check out Friends with Benefits to get the most out of your mileage.

Pictured: An attempt at being charming and funny
Not Picture: Any presence of fun or charm
 I give No Strings Attached 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas.

Pros's cool that the girl in the situation was the one who screws up since it's usually the dude


-The main characters are not likable and thus the film is hard to get through

-The plot is dull and typical

-It's not very funny at all


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