Not much to get "Into" in ensemble romantic comedy

Mon Feb 2, 2009 6:07pm EST

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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - It began, reportedly, with a line uttered during a "Sex and the City" episode: "He's just not that into you." That line became the title of a best-selling relationship book, and now it's a movie. But how can you turn a phrase, even one with a hint of gossip and nastiness, into a movie?

"He's Just Not That Into You" struggles for more than two hours with multiple characters and tangled story lines to bring home the point that not all chance meetings or blind dates are meant to go the distance -- and not all marriages are rock solid. Wow, didn't we know that already?

There's not much here for men, or, for that matter, women who understand that the complexity of human relationships doesn't reduce to catchphrases. Even so, a bright cast and the promise of "Sex and the City" naughtiness -- a promise that goes unfulfilled -- should have this film, which Warner Bros. releases Friday (February 6) playing well past Valentine's Day.

In the film, directed Ken Kwapis from Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein's screenplay, most of the relationships revolve around advice giving. Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin) wears her heart prominently in the open for just about any eligible male to see, but rejection seems her lot. Her latest jilt came from Conor (Kevin Connolly). But Conor's buddy, bar/restaurant manager Alex (Justin Long), gives her sound advice: Don't obsess, simply move on.

Conor has this on-and-off thing going with yoga instructor Anna (Scarlett Johansson) but longs for more. Meanwhile Anna turns to her friend Mary (Drew Barrymore) for advice, especially when she gets involved with a married man (Bradley Cooper) whose wife (Jennifer Connelly) works and swaps advice with Beth (Jennifer Aniston) and Gigi.

Beth can't get live-in boyfriend Neil (Ben Affleck) to marry her, so he kicks him out before getting advice from her dad (Kris Kristofferson). And so it goes.

All of this results in way too much relationship chatter and not nearly enough comedy, romance or even dysfunctional relationships. We want to laugh -- but at what?

Goodwin, who is close to being the film's heroine, has a sweet disposition and is far too attractive to be forever getting bad dates. Long is easygoing and assured onscreen. In isolation, these two -- as well as other characters and couples in the movie -- are engaging enough. Yet when they're crowded into an ensemble piece, there is just too much similarity in the story lines and not enough depth to any of the characters to compel interest.

The film seems more like a two-hour pitch for a TV series than a coherent movie. Resolutions of all the stories feel forced, as if someone finally looked at the clock. The abrupt endings don't do a lot of favors for these characters either.

Tech credits are pro, but here too things lean toward TV-style gloss.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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