She's Out of My League deserves a soft rejection: it has its heart in the right place, but the chemistry just isn't there. The screenplay, by Sex Drive's Sean Anders and John Morris, has several solid, even commendable characterizations, but the direction and performances don't pack the punch they need to register. It's not a dull movie, but a personality-free flick like this is easily steamrolled by recent runaway successes like The Hangover -- basically, it's the comedic equivalent of its main character.
That character is Kirk (Jay Baruchel), an airport security employee still nursing the wounds from his two-year-old break-up with his last girlfriend, Marnie (Lindsay Sloane). The day after she rejects his latest attempt to reunite, he helps a charismatic, beautiful woman named Molly (Alice Eve) through security and around the unsubtle advances of his lecherous co-workers. As her plane is leaving, Molly discovers her phone is missing, calls it, and gets Kirk, who hangs onto it for her. When he goes to a party she's throwing to return it and is inadvertently blamed for spilling alcohol on a guest, she offers hockey tickets as an apology. The tickets turn out to be a double date, and all of a sudden, he finds himself in the most unlikely relationship of his life.
On Sex Drive, Anders and Morris brought a much-needed, flying-by-the-seat-of-the-pants, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink sense of freedom that wiped away my lingering worries that the film was just a poor Superbad knockoff, and probably played key roles in bringing together a solid cast of B- and C-listers capable of elevating the framework plot to unexpected highs. She's Out of My League isn't nearly as successful in either of those key categories, shuffling in a group of stars that might be even lower on the Hollywood totem pole, and a director whose style boils down to point-and-shoot.
Regardless, the script tries its best. Unlike the Seth Rogen characters of the world, Kirk really is a nice, unassuming guy. A bit of a wimp, maybe, but his desire to help Molly always comes from the fact that he has good manners, and not the fact that she's a knockout. In fact, up until her best friend Patty (Krysten Ritter) tells him at the hockey game that they're on a double date, the idea that he and Molly could ever be together hasn't even crossed his mind. Anders and Morris are also careful to make sure Kirk isn't a total sad-sack or a guy who needs to get his life together: he may be broken up about his ex, and he may work in a dead-end job, but neither of these elements are played as end-of-the-world problems that threaten to consume his entire life. It almost seems impossible, having seen so many movies where a character's goals are subbed in for actual character, but when he's being nice to Molly, he's not being nice simply because he'd rather have Marnie.
Molly herself is interesting in that her status as a "stone-cold 10" is generally played as having equal amount to do with her personality as it does with her looks, and even better, she's not yet another in an increasingly long line of Manic Pixie Dream Girls. It's so rare in a movie like this, but I'd actually believe that Molly spends time away from Kirk thinking about her job as a party planner (which her love life never interferes with), trying to deal with the expectations of her parents (she hasn't told them she's quit law school), and brushing off the advances of someone like Cam (Geoff Stults), a chiseled fighter jet pilot (who I can also appreciate as a subtle villain, the kind that deftly plants a particularly devious seed of fear in Kirk's mind under the guise of good sportsmanship, rather than facing off against him in some tired fistfight).
Sadly, Baruchel doesn't quite have it in him to carry a movie like this. I really enjoyed him as a co-lead in the aptly-named real-time thriller Real Time, but he gives a dull, supporting-level performance here (prepare to become very familiar with his "exasperated/confused" facial expression), and fails to generate believable chemistry with Eve (interesting that the scenes of their actual relationship -- the day-to-day dating -- are limited to montages). A real punch-up in the comedy department might have helped smooth the gaps, but the film trots out scene after scene peppered with easy jokes, mostly involving profanity (Kirk's friends are not nearly as well-written as Kirk himself). There's at least one good scene involving Baruchel, Torrence, and an electric razor (which admirably avoids any gay-panic comedy), but the movie otherwise only manages sporadic chuckles rather than big laughs. Director Jim Field Smith spends his time demonstrating little to no directorial instinct with scenes like Kirk's climactic speech (which falls totally flat), or Baruchel's hasty exit the first time he meets Molly's parents (which needs a better payoff -- no pun intended). League is also unable to avoid one awful romantic-comedy pothole: a fight going into the third act. I was really hoping Baruchel's reaction to a revelation about Eve's character was a scoff of disbelief, a decisive "that would never bother me" moment, but alas, no dice.
They always say women want confidence in a man, and that's essentially what's sorely missing from She's Out of My League. The film wasn't so flat as to offend my inner moviegoer, but it also didn't make much of an impression. I stayed until the end of the credits had rolled, and was surprised to see that the film bears a 2008 copyright date. Most films get shelved due to massive problems, but I wouldn't be surprised if League is two years late just because DreamWorks and Paramount forgot they made it. It's the kind of movie that would use a song by The Fray to score a big moment. Those who have no idea what I'm talking about are probably the intended audience.
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