Saturday, February 16, 2008

Review: Definitely, Maybe

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Abigail Breslin, Isla Fisher, Rachel Weisz
Director: Adam Brooks
Release Date: February 14, 2008
Running time: 105 min
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Distributors: Focus Features

“You mean, not good like one out of a hundred?”

“I'd say more like one out of a million.”

“So you're telling me there's a chance.”

We all make choices in life, every day. Some are smaller and have little or no impact on the grand scheme, and some shake us to our foundation and alter the very balance of power in our lives and completely change the game. For one reason or another a few months back I embarked on a quest to find the first good romantic comedy of the season. I didn’t mean to, but after seeing so many bad ones, I imagined there had to be one out there sooner or later that didn’t make me want to reject my trade. Regrettably, my stubborn nature took over.

Well it happened. Dear God, it finally happened. But my personal victory notwithstanding, the movie isn’t completely without flaw.

The almost divorced Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds) goes to tuck his annoyingly inquisitive daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin) into bed one night and she starts in on him about wanting to hear the story of how he fell in love with her mother. Kinda like that TV show with the clever title – what was the name of it again? – oh yeah, How I Met Your Mother. He begins to tell the story, through flashbacks, of three loves in his past.

I remember reading an article somewhere one time that listed all these different types of women and it saying something about how men should try to date as many different types of these women as they can before they decide on “the one”. Seems like an obvious and skanky argument (wait, sorry – shaky. Never mind, skanky works) but Will must have read the same article because the three women he talks about are scattered across the board.

There’s old reliable, Emily (Elizabeth Banks), his college sweetie. The ambitious journalist, Summer (Rachel Weisz) with a penchant for sleeping with old men and young women. And April (Isla Fisher), the free spirited arty chick with whom he does/doesn’t/does/doesn’t have feelings for. Or a little bit like A Lot Like Love. The movie goes into his time juggling these three women at various points in his life leading up to now. It’s all well and good, but it’s like driving west across Colorado toward Denver, you see the end about an hour before you get there. And it does take a little longer to tell the story than it needs too. What does work, however, is the fact that none of the women are vilified. No one is painted an easy scapegoat for us to hate and root against. For one reason or another things just don’t work out with them at any given time. This happens in life and that it happens here makes this pill all the easier to swallow.

I don’t know what it is about movies, especially this type, that employs the use of kids as the voice of reason. This one is right out of the book where the kid seems to know more about what’s going on than the adults and find cute ways to tell them what is what in such a way that makes them feel stupid for ever not understanding. Sleepless in Seattle, anyone? Like I said, it isn’t groundbreaking cinema, but it serves its purpose and wasn’t terrible getting there.

This movie’s likability benefits greatly from the paltry comparisons to its romantic comedy brethren released so far this year. Take it for what it’s worth but I’d call it a win. By default, sure, but a win either way. At this point I’ll take what I can get.

And there’s the rub.

** 1/2 out of ****

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