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Starz / Anchor Bay // Unrated // May 19, 2015
List Price: $22.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted August 21, 2015 | E-mail the Author
The Film:

It's getting tougher and tougher for romantic comedies to dream up novel approaches to the same old formula. There's still enough substance in the evolving state of relationships and society for them to offer fresh outlooks on the genre, though, which makes it all the more frustrating to see hints of creativity lost in a clutter of flat humor or unconvincing characters. Lovesick falls into that category, the feature-length directorial debut from Luke Matheny that introduces an earnest, yet unsettling premise built around the neurotic jealousy of an otherwise appealing man whenever he falls in love. Instead of providing a sincere window into his psychotic obsession and deduction, this imbalanced rom-com misinterprets the persistently uncomfortable foibles of a mentally unstable hero as effective situational comedy, rendering a groan-worthy journey through the maze of a man's mind whose antics are far more dubious than charming.

Emmy nominee and Golden Globe winner Matt LeBlanc plays Charles Darby, a elementary school principal whose warm disposition has earned him plenty of fans at the school and around the community. He's single, though, despite those qualities, and it's not due to a lack of trying. Every time Charlie gets involved in a relationship, he gets incredibly jealous and finds ways of ruining things by imagining that his girlfriend is having an affair, often through elaborate reasoning ... and even a little detective work. Thinking that his taste in women is the root of the problem, Charlie has sworn off serious relationships, only casually dating people that he's certain he won't fall in love with. He's confronted with a dilemma after meeting Molly (Ali Larter), a delightful new teacher and dance instructor, where he must decide whether to maintain his distance or risk getting hurt again. At this junction, with the help of friends, Charlie begins to discover that his problems run deeper than his taste in the opposite sex.

Lovesick starts off completely on the wrong foot by presenting Charlie as this overly sulky and jaded individual, the kind of guy who randomly blurts out to children his glum viewpoint on romance and brings absurdly unbearable women to outings with his friends as a means of self-torture, or something. These aren't the sympathetic traits that the film thinks they are, instead letting an odious attitude hang in the air following a diatribe on the meaning of the word "Mate" and after Charlie's date goes off on an unfunny and pointlessly exaggerated racist tangent, ending with her wildly frisking a waiter she suspects of being a terrorist. Chevy Chase's phoned-in cameo as a narcissistic, porn-obsessed loon of a neighbor doesn't really help matters. The script from Community and King of the Hill writer/producer Dean Young elevates reality to the wrong ends here, to a point where Charlie almost seems like he's acting out of character before even really getting to know him, transformed from a reputable role model for his school's kids to someone who won't hesitate in manipulating and betraying one or more of the students.

That's excusable, or so Lovesick thinks, because Charlie has a mental health condition that gives him paranoia and anxiety when -- and only when -- he falls in love and can't handle the pressure of trusting his partner, hinged on neurochemical changes that simply cannot be helped. Driven by a performance from Matt LeBlanc that plays more like an aged Joey Tribbiani bumbling and furrowing his brow through a part well beyond his depth, the film attempts to make light of Charlie's psychotic extrapolations as he progresses beyond those whimsical first dates with Molly, suspiciously eyeing her every interaction with other men and monitoring any activity that doesn't involve him (and some that do). Where the likes of As Good As It Gets builds both compassion and disdain for the intolerable aspects of Melvin Udall's obsessive-compulsiveness, Charlie's condition merely comes across as creepy and embarrassing despite the good intentions behind it all. What bums me out is that few, if any, of his odd sleuthing endeavors end up getting any laughs, whether he's ribbiting someone's name during a date to provoke a response or repeatedly asking dinner hosts for a very specific piece of clothing.

Bizarrely, Lovesick still seems entirely content in following through with traditional rom-com inclinations, despite the madness of Charlie's behavior. Even ignoring how comfortable some of these characters seem to be with a principal who forced students to assist in his manic schemes, the outcome of it all feels disingenuous and hard to believe as LeBlanc's wacky hero works himself in and out of skin-crawling corners with Molly, sweetly and credulously played by Ali Larter. Charlie's suspicions end up being equally as bonkers as how the script withholds just enough info to feed his distrust, and while it's in service of expressing a worthwhile point about accepting inherent flaws and the nuance of jealousy and dedicated love, that message gets obstructed by the far-fetched merciful conditions that render it possible. Lovesick might make someone feel sorry for Principal Darby and his history of sabotaging relationships, but not enough for him reap the rewards of the genre's sentimental formula.

The DVD:

Video and Audio:

Lovesick pops up on DVD from Anchor Bay Home Entertainment in a tolerable 2.35:1-framed, 16x9-enhanced transfer. Skin tones are warm, greens in leaves and oranges in fire are supple, and fine details during close-ups on hair and skin are largely satisfying through the digital photography. However, contrast is rather erratic and unpleasing, the biggest issue with the transfer, resulting in some overly-light black levels in some areas and contributing to the image's flat depth in others. Detail in distanced shots isn't terribly good, either, frequently hazy and struggling with both dense textures (foliage, wood grain, jacket fabric) and facial/body contours. To the disc's credit, though, very little gets obscured by the missteps in clarity and contrast (crushing only a few details), so those that are curious will find a perfectly watchable presentation ... but that's as good as it gets.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 delivers about what's expected, but with a bit more oomph than the transfer. Most of the activity stays at the front and center of the track, focused on keeping the dialogue balanced and clear, which it does. Verbal clarity never falters, whether it's Matt LeBlanc's deeper voice or the musings of Molly's elderly grandmother, though it does have to compete with the music's volume level and occasionally loses out. The soundtrack is standard rom-com fare, but it's strong and sharp throughout the front and rear channels, providing just about all of the surround activity. A few sound effects telegraph some intermittent crispness and channel separation, such as the metallic rattle of a crashed bicycle and the demolition of a ukulele, but they're incredibly few and far between. English and Spanish subs are available.

Special Features:


Final Thoughts:

Lovesick attempts to take the concept of being "crazy in love" to a literal level, focusing on a school principal who actually goes mad whenever he crosses the threshold between dating and romance with a woman, toeing the line of becoming a stalker with his obsessive and suspicious antics. It misses the mark, both as a romantic comedy and as a quasi-drama about the frustrations of Charlie's psychosis, only yielding whatever joy some might find in the unbearable discomfort of a man who continually twists reality and works himself into an untrusting tizzy. Good-natured intentions are lost through its lack of genuineness and discomforting sense of humor, which makes the tidy, formulaic resolution to Charlie's escapades harder to take. Skip It.

Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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