Just got home after a great day with friends and family (and just in time to see the New York Jets advance in the NFL playoffs). However, today’s movie was probably the LOW point of the entire day, which is why this review will be short and sweet. What movie was it? James L. Brooks’ newest foray into the rom-com realm – How Do You Know.
Basic Non-Spoiler Plot Summary: The story of a love-triangle between Lisa, an Olympic softball player (played by Reese Witherspoon), George, a corporate executive under investigation for securities fraud (played by Paul Rudd), and Matty, a pitcher for the Washington Nationals baseball team.
The Pros: Believe it or not, I did like a couple of things about this movie – Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd. These actors are so talented that it really pained me to see them stuck with really bad material. Witherspoon, at 34 years old, still has the same cutesy appeal she did in her 20s. And Paul Rudd has so many dimensions to him – on one hand, he can play a complete goofball in one film and, on the other hand get serious and play a character that you can feel some kind of genuine sympathy towards. Both of them on-screen at the same time? Greatness; in fact, I’d venture to say that their awesome chemistry together was what saved the movie from being a complete disaster. While Owen Wilson floundered here as usual, at least it wasn’t all that bad and he served a purpose (unlike in Little Fockers).
Oh, and Jack Nicholson is always awesome to see in action, especially when he’s cursing somebody out.
The Cons: If I ever find myself suffering from insomnia one of these days, all I have to do from now on is pop in How Do You Know and I should be asleep within a half hour. Seriously. About an hour into the film, I found myself, a.) not giving a shit about any of the characters on-screen, with the exception of Paul Rudd, and b.) trying my hardest to keep my eyes open. It literally became a challenge as to how long I can go without falling asleep. Eventually I succumbed, falling asleep for about 10 minutes and waking up in time for the last half hour of the film.
So what were the problems that induced a brief (but relaxing) nap? First off, definitely the characters (not the actors); I mean, no offense to James L. Brooks (he is one of the executive producers of The Simpsons, after all), but these characters he crafted just never take off like they are supposed to. I’ll give credit where credit is due, though – he takes time to develop the characters, which is something that I rarely see nowadays in rom-coms, but the reason why this, in the end, doesn’t work out is because Brooks made all of his main characters into really unlikeable people, who you, the viewer, wouldn’t realistically associate yourself with in the real world. In fact, these characters become so unlikeable that by the midpoint of the film, I could’ve cared less what happened to any of them (with the exception of, like I said, Paul Rudd, but even he couldn’t stop me from falling asleep at the 80-minute mark).
Secondly, the running time – in other words, this movie was too…….fucking…….long. There was about a half hour’s worth of stuff in there that wasn’t needed and didn’t further along the main storyline of the love triangle, and all it did was waste my damn time and help me along in my journey to Slumberland (that one’s for you, Mr. Eddie).
Finally, the story itself. I will, again, give Brooks some credit here – the humor in this film was actually not bad. Nothing L-O-L funny, but there were points in the film where I let out a chuckle here and there. The bigger picture, though, is that the story, to be honest, never really took off after the first 20 minutes. In fact, I would go out on another limb and say that if you were to watch just the first 20 minutes and the last half hour (in total, 50 minutes of the 116-minute running time), then you wouldn’t need to see anything else, because those 50 minutes ARE THE ENITRE MOVIE – or the important parts, at least. Which means that the other 66 minutes are nothing but filler; sure, there’s some character development tangled up in those 66 minutes, but when the end result is unlikeable characters that, in the end, you give two shits about anyway, that character development (which, in any other film production, would be considered vital to the story) becomes nothing more than useless filler.
Conclusion: I really wanted to like this film – I really did. But (despite great performances by Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, and Jack Nicholson and a decent performance by Owen Wilson) after finding myself falling asleep 80-minutes in, not giving a shit about any of these characters or what became of them, I only have one word to describe this movie: B-O-R-I-N-G. Recommended for Adults and Those Suffering From Insomnia.
Final Score: ** (2/5)
And that’ll do it. As always, any questions, comments, or feedback in general, send an email to email@example.com, or simply leave a comment in the comments section below.
Look out for Issue #23 of The Wide World of Sports-Entertainment either tomorrow or Monday where I dive into 2011 Predictions.
Also, starting Monday (1/10), my unofficial “True Grit” Week begins! Look out for my RETRO-Review of the original True Grit, my review of the Coen Brothers’ remake, and an edition of The Epitome of Randomness where I compare both versions of True Grit. Plus, tons of True Grit-related videos!
Until next time, I’m out!
Review – How Do You Know 
Cinephile extraordinaire, a budding filmmaker, and host of Forced Perspective. A resident of NY/NJ, he spends most of his time looking for new movies to watch and learning the craft of filmmaking. You’ve probably also seen him hanging around Madison Square Garden and Yankee Stadium at some point. If you see him approach your movie theater, be sure to let him in – he’s the guy in the Yankees cap!