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How to be Single

Warner Bros. // R // May 24, 2016
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ryan Keefer | posted May 22, 2016 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

As a husband (and possibly future father), I will readily concede that a movie about four twenty-something women living and dating in New York City is a fairly polar opposite of whatever demographic I may fall in, but I do try to check in with the woman-driven comedy every so often to see where things are, and How to be Single fell in my lap.

Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein adapted the Liz Tuccillo novel and Christian Ditter directed. Alice (Dakota Johnson, 21 Jump Street) is taking a break from her boyfriend Josh (Nicholas Braun, Red State) and decides to move into New York City to be a paralegal at a law firm. She meets Robin (Rebel Wilson, Pitch Perfect) at the firm, who is a bit of a party girl and shows her the ins and outs of hooking up in the Big Apple. Alice isn't completely alone in New York as her older sister Meg (Leslie Mann, This is 40) lives in the city and works as an OB/GYN. We follow the women around, with some other storylines along the way.

One of those storylines is of Lucy (Alison Brie, Get Hard), who is a tech wiz of some sort, but who can't apparently figure out what's wrong with her wi-fi, so she hangs out at a bar a lot of times, exchanging banter with the bartender Tom (Anders Holm, The Intern). Tom also hooks up with Alice on occasion, so there is an Altman-esque link between this storyline and the other characters in the film. Save for Robin, each character has their own conflict, yet they seem to ultimately get what they want, which for a Hollywood film, is a bold choice. Not really obviously, but I couldn't leave that portion of it too dry from a joke perspective.

Before going into too deep a dive on the film, a general observation on Wilson for a second. Speaking as an old, just what exactly is the appeal of her humor? I mean, is it the ‘fun Aussie' stereotype that's supposed to be charming? The character that appears to have gotten her widespread appeal here is named ‘Fat Amy,' so is it that? There wasn't really much in Robin that I particularly was fond of, and the film is set up in such a way that she is only there for yucks as it was, and there just wasn't much that she did that was particularly funny. She's a real life portrayal of Steve Carell's Michael Scott character, except deliberate, and less funny.

Wilson's presence in the film aside, there isn't much to jump up and down about in the film. Brie's character is pretty much unnecessary, so Wilson and Mann are left with whatever heavy lifting the story expects. Mann plays a woman who delivers so many babies in her career she suddenly wants one of her own, and when she finds this success (via IVF), she also finds a younger man in Ken (Jake Lacy, Carol), who is fun but also supportive. In a supporting role, Mann's work isn't bad, perhaps the best of the quartet honestly, and I liked enjoying her scenes.

As far as Johnson goes, I get the allure of her onscreen, and her character's development (along with Johnson's execution) does harken back a little first or second season Sex and the City in an appealing way. She has good scenes with Holm and with Damon Wayans Jr. (Carol), who plays David, one of Alice's boyfriend during her exploration. But while the film says the title is How to be Single, a more apt title for her character may likely be How to be Alone, considering the ending and the many scenes of introspection for Alice. In a film that runs 105 pre-credit minutes, some fat could have definitely been trimmed for moments like this for a much more effective film.

There are some moments in How to Be Single that are entertaining, but honestly if I wanted to watch a comedy about relationships in New York City these days, I'd have a lot more fun watching the funnier and smarter Mindy Project, who also handle them far better than they do in this film. The film is neither good nor bad; it just occupies space without doing much for itself.

The Blu-ray:
The Video:

The transfer for this 2.40:1 widescreen feature is what one would expect from recent source material. Colors are reproduced vividly with little saturation, there are moments of image noise but nothing serious, black levels are consistent throughout the evening scene, it looks fine. A minor qualm in that the image detail isn't ideal, though it would appear to be a conscious choice when it comes to lighting the actors. Looks about what I expected it to in high-definition.

The Sound:

DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround and those results are good. The film has a lot of music going on, be it in clubs or rooftops, and it sounds clear and includes a lot of subwoofer activity. The soundtrack of the film doesn't have that much to do; Wilson throws herself against taxis multiple times and that dynamism sounds clear and true, dialogue is well-balanced and while devoid of notable directional effects, has a flirtation with channel panning that is fine. Looks good, sounds good.


"The Pros and Cons of How to be Single" (5:10) looks at the characters from the cast who portray them, after Wilson discusses how her character breaks down pros and cons in the movie. "Rebel Rabble" (4:07) looks at Wilson from the co-stars and crew. "The Best Idea Wins" (6:05) examines the improvisation and other on-set work, while five deleted scenes (8:05) include a bizarre subplot with Wayans' character. A gag reel (1:55) is mostly pre and post-action flubs, and there are some alternate takes with Wilson (7:37) that complete things, along with an UltraViolet copy of the feature.

Final Thoughts:

How to be Single does have an occasional moment or two of hilarity, and even poignancy at the very end (DAMN YOU WAYANS!!!), but the story doesn't seem to make up its mind a lot of times and its second act is flat out meandering through average performances. Technically the disc is OK though like a lot of other titles, could have used some work on its bonus material. Give it a look.

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