She's Out of My League
March 12, 2010
On the Big Board
|I was really surprised - this should have been a run of the mill romcom, but it was actually charming. Alice Eve is a natural.
|Doesn't aim very high, which is exactly why it achieves the success it does. Mostly harmless fun that won't challenge your brain.
Spring is right around the corner, and that means it’s time for movie studio executives to don their lab coats and ship their latest experiments to cinema. Police dramas and action movies starring faded A-list talent, second rate monster flicks and pensive, long winded art films flood the theaters this time of year, and with good reason. There’s a dirty little secret in Hollywood that nobody likes to talk about and it doesn’t involve Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton. It’s that studios often schedule what they feel to be their most high risk projects – or the ones they don’t expect much from – early in the year. The hope is that if things don’t work out you’ll have forgotten all about it by summertime and if they do, then it’s all the better to start the year off profitably. I don’t mean to imply that every film you see before Easter is going to be a dud – but there’s a reason the popcorn flicks start showing in May and the Oscar buzz starts heating up in September. It’s just safe to say that if you showed me an R-rated romantic comedy with two leads I’d have trouble picking out of a police lineup, I’ll show you a movie that’ll probably have come and gone by the time you’ve paid your taxes.
But to be fair, it's good business practice and it is the best time of year to test drive up-and-coming talent, particularly if the material is risky. And R-rated comedies are by any standard, high risk. Though they have enjoyed a resurgence over the past decade, because of their limited appeal the choice is often to play it safe and go for cheap and easy laughs. This may be why the top ten R-rated comedies of all time are cheeky satires, raunchy guy flicks or middlebrow romantic comedies. Some were better than others, but there’s a clear formula for success and Hollywood has refined the science to a level even NASA might envy. So show me an R-rated romantic comedy with two leads I’d have trouble picking out of a police lineup, and I’ll show you a movie that someone somewhere is betting the family farm on anyway. Sometimes you get Caddyshack II, and sometimes you get The Hangover. It’s a roll of the dice but if you strike gold, the payoff is well worth the exposure.
She’s Out of My League is a Paramount picture starring Jason Baruchel, who you might remember for recent roles in Tropic Thunder and Knocked Up, where he proved himself a reliable supporting presence (okay, I was kidding about the police line up). She’s Out of My League looks to me like a bit of a mash-up, where someone envisioned Baruchel as a less well fed Jason Biggs, dropped into a reimagining of There’s Something About Mary for Generation Y. That said the story covers what should be pretty familiar ground, assuming you’ve ever seen a "goofy guy gets pretty girl" movie before. An awkward but loveable boob meets the perfect woman through improbable circumstances, and must win her undying love despite the interference of his zany slacker friends and comically eccentric family. I am already willing to bet that you’ve seen this film a dozen times before and I imagine so have I. But I also suspect that like most stories, the idea won’t be to present something new, but to add a subtle variation to something we’re all already comfortable with. First time Director Jim Field Smith is definitely not being asked to re-invent the wheel here, but he has a respectable comedic background, so he’ll probably keep the colors inside the lines.
After all, when it comes to mainstream romantic comedies, to my mind there are only two sides of one coin - those with female leads and those with male leads. The former tend to portray their heroine as a dumbstruck klutz who has a shot with the impossibly handsome astronaut, if only she can learn to see the beauty that’s already inside her. The latter tends to be much the same, only with either a adorably lanky buffoon or an adorably plump buffoon struggling to win the affection of a woman who seems to be put together from doll parts. Both types appeal to women because the leads are always likeable and we all know how the story ends. The latter keeps the men in seats because there are plenty of jokes about sex and occasional sight gags involving bodily fluids. But if Hollywood tends to repeat itself it is precisely because repetition draws repeat business – what sells is what makes the screen. For example – and it may just be coincidence - Seth Rogen is not in She’s Out of My League, but someone who looks like him (TJ Miller) is - and it’s what the people want!
Critics decry it but formula works on film sets just as it does in the lab – the same ingredients mixed the same way produce consistent results. And for the most part, the person who sits down to see She’s Out of My League opening weekend will not be a film critic, any more than the person waiting at the concession stand outside is a professional chef. They will both enter the theater knowing precisely what they want and they’ll probably get exactly that. And if a movie shows you what you wanted to see when you walked in – if it succeeds on its own terms - then it has served its purpose well. (Bruce Hall/BOP)