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The couple arrives in a creaky vehicle, leaking fluids and tires completely shot but, hey, it got them to the party. Anna Faris and Chris Evans are the couple in question, and together they brighten up a lame idea for a romantic comedy in What’s Your Number? so well that you keep thinking this isn’t such a bad concept after all. Well, yes, it is but, to their credit, a support team that includes not only other actors but director Mark Mylod and screenwriters Garbielle Allan and Jennifer Crittenden realize a good thing when they see it: Set your stellar performers up with good line and physical shtick, then get out of their way.
For this is a rom-com by the numbers. Literally. Numbers dominate the premise but — bottom line — the numbers may pencil out quite well for Fox with its weekend release of a modestly budgeted, savvy product for female audiences. And guys may see a few figures they don’t mind looking at either.
Here’s the premise: In America, the average woman has 10.5 lovers in her lifetime. And 96% of women who’ve been with 20 or more lovers can’t find a husband, this according to a study by one Dr. Helen Fig. (No, the joke is too obvious.) So the film’s heroine, one Ally Darling (Faris), decides, during an inebriated evening celebrating the impending nuptials of her younger sister (Ari Graynor) in their hometown of Boston, that the numbers aren’t running in her favor.
So-o-o … she vows that man No. 20 — yes, she’s about to reach that number — will be The One. Then she sleeps with the creep who just fired her. Oops.
Now, if her vow not to exceed the No. 20 is to mean anything, she must revisit Nos. 1-19 to find the right one. Even the Internet isn’t that helpful tracking down those unsuspecting males, however. But the guy across the landing from her apartment, Colin (Evans), who beds a different bimbo each night, has a family in the police business and a natural instinct for finding anybody.
Okay, so you know instantly how this is going to play out, but the playing-out is the whole fun. The two confab about Ally’s various past “exes,” she ambushes a few for comic sequences, Ally & Colin become real friends, her sister’s wedding has its own comic bumps, and then there’s the melodrama about dad (Ed Begley Jr.) showing up at the wedding and just how much this will upset Ally’s patrician mom (Blythe Danner).
To paraphrase Noel Coward, it’s extraordinary how potent cheap rom-com is. None of this should play well. It does because Faris and Evans work hard to make it look easy. Faris is oft compared to Lucille Ball, but why not? She’s got the beauty, awkwardness and guile down pat. She absolutely makes this movie, which would otherwise be exasperating. Her timing is impeccable and her enthusiasm contagious.
Evans’ role is more subservient to the heroine and would get lost with a less personable and accomplished comic actor. He definitely plays second fiddle to Faris, but what an orchestra they make.
The rest of the movie has good and bad points — mostly good. The supporting cast does what it should, excellent use is made of Boston locations nicely blended with a superior interior set — designer Jon Billington, take your bow —– and the writers and director achieve a nice nonchalance in how the story unfolds. Mild vulgarity and discreet nudity garner the sought-after R rating, but this effort feels forced. The real “bad” here is the sheer formulaic nature of everything. There are no surprises but for once you don’t much mind.
There are more than four weddings in the movie, but no funerals so a happy ending is assured. In fact, that may be the worst “bad” here. There was room for a more ambiguous ending, maybe one that found the movie’s Darling wondering what No. 22 might be like.
Opens: Sept. 30 (20th Century Fox)
Production companies: Regency Enterprises presents a New Regency/Contrafilm production
Cast: Anna Faris, Chris Evans, Ari Graynor, Dave Annable, Joel McHale, Blythe Danner, Ed Begley Jr., Heather Burns, Eliza Coupe, Kate Simses, Tika Sumpter
Director: Mark Mylod
Screenwriters: Garbielle Allan, Jennifer Crittenden
Based on the novel by: Karyn Bosnak
Producers: Beau Flynn, Tripp Vinson
Executive producers: Arnon Milchan, Anna Faris, Nan Morales
Director of photography: J. Michael Muro
Production designer: Jon Billington
Music: Aaron Zigman
Costume designer: Amy Westcott
Editor: Julie Monroe
R rating, 106 minutes
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