2 out of 5 stars
Now that Steve Carell has left The Office for good, he has time to start focusing on his other passion, being a movie star. He seems to try to be positioning himself to be a milder version of someone like Steve Martin for a new generation, and his catalog so far has been a mixed bag. For every 40 Year Old Virgin and Little Miss Sunshine, there’s a Dinner for Schmucks and Evan Almighty.
Crazy Stupid Love falls somewhere in the middle. The trailer made it looks pretty decent, with the core premise being ladies man Jacob (Ryan Gosling) giving Cal (Carell) a lifestyle makeover after he learns his wife has been cheating on him and wants a divorce.
This does happen yes, but this is a very different movie than I thought it would be, and the central makeover part takes about ten minutes, and the subsequent ladykilling about another ten, but it’s hardly the central issue of the film. Also downplayed is the romance between Jacob and Hannah (Emma Stone) who is supposed to be the girl who tames the wild romancer, but she is barely even onscreen the first three quarters of the movie, and only in unrelated snippets about her dating a nice but boring guy. Her eventual story with Jacob is given barely any screentime, and feels like an underdeveloped aspect of the film.
Alright let’s bust this romance out in five minutes.
Rather, far more time is devoted to a subplot about how Cal’s 17 year old babysitter has a crush on him, and in turn, his 13 year old son has a crush on her. You would imagine this storyline would a bit of a lighthearted diversion to distract from Cal’s crushing sadness, but actually it becomes one of the stranger aspects of the film, and not charming at all. The boy tells the babysitter he thinks about her when masturbating (after she catches him doing it) quashing any chance of that puppy dog romance ever being cute, and her own crush gets all To Catch a Predator when she devises a plan to send Cal some naked pictures of herself to get his attention.
The film struggles to find a balance between realism, the story of a sad man trying to put his life back together, with zany comedy staples that include social situations so awkward they would make Larry David cry, but would never actually exist in real life. Also mildly annoying is the film’s use of insane coincidence, a card which it plays not once, but twice, the second time throwing in a twist at the end that comes completely out of left field, as you really don’t expect such a plot device in a movie like this, and it doesn’t really feel necessary.
The characters just seem…off in Crazy Stupid Love. Gosling’s ladies man alternates between nice guy and dick at a moment’s notice, and every time you start to like him he does something horribly chauvinistic to make you despise him again. Emma Stone might have had a character if they gave her any screen time at all, but the story of why she’s dating Mr. Bland McBlanderton is never told, and would probably be pretty boring if it had been. Julianne Moore’s character is exceptionally strange, alternating between hating and loving Cal every other minute, and the central issue of the film, WHY she cheated on him and wanted a divorce is never actually addressed. Jacob tells Cal because he “lost his manhood,” whatever the hell that means, but for a film that wants to be about deep issues, it never really uncovers any.
Moral of the story: Kids can be creepy too.
All of this is strung together in a film that’s very strangely paced and edited, and feels like it drags on at points. I would argue that a movie like this doesn’t need to be two full hours long, and it pushes the limits of patience as it keeps setting up reconciliation situations only to have them come crashing down again and again.
The best part of the film is probably Carell himself, who is the only one who doesn’t seem to be faking emotion the whole time. But he’s stuck in a movie that’s generally subpar, despite a good premise and cast. Just don’t start doing movies with talking animals, and you’ll be OK buddy.
2 out of 5 stars