January, traditionally, is the worst time for movies. Well, it's the worst time for big budget studio made movies. You also get the high quality indie films that had a one week release in the previous year to qualify for Oscar contention but those movies cater to a different audience from mass market studio fare. Today's review, sadly, is not for one of those.
I'm glad I didn't know ahead of time that No Strings Attached was directed by Ivan Reitman or I might have expected more from it. I'm not sure why as any Ivan Reitman movie that didn't have Bill Murray is mildly amusing at best.
No Strings Attached is about a group of awful people who treat each other terribly in a way that's supposed to make the audience laugh though, judging from my and the audience's reaction, there wasn't a lot of that. Ashton Kutcher plays Adam and Natalie Portman plays Emma, two dumb people who enter into an idiotic relationship in the stupidest way possible. They meet as teenagers at camp and he tries to parlay her lame attempts at comforting him over his parents' divorce into a failed attempt at fingering her. They meet again at college and she invites him to accompany her to a family thing that turns out to be her father's funeral. This does set up a funny shot where Adam is surrounded by mourners in formal wear while he's dressed in blue jeans and his Michigan State sweatshirt so I suppose it was a plus for the movie that she's a self-absorbed idiot. They meet up again a few years later when they're both living in Los Angeles because, in a city the size of Los Angeles, you're bound to run into the girl you tried to finger as a teen who humiliated you at a funeral. They become good friends and that's when more stuff happens.
Adam gets upset when his movie star dad (Kevin Kline) hooks up with his former swimsuit model girlfriend. This and the fact that he is an assistant to the writers of a Glee-style television show instead of a writer himself. Never mind that this is a position an aspiring writer would literally kill for and never mind that he'd already broken up with the girl when Dad got together with her. It was still enough to send him into an alcohol fueled meltdown where he ends up at Emma's and, through a series of very dull circumstances, they end up having unexpected sex. This is when they decide to become platonic sex buddies, a prospect that works out as well as you think it would in a romantic comedy about two people who are both perfect for and crazy about each other.
So, you know, there's the plot. There have been worse plots. The challenge with a movie like this is making you care enough about the characters and inserting enough laughs to make you overlook how utterly ridiculous it is and this movie fails the challenge. I was surprised at how little I cared for anyone in this movie. Natalie Portman supposedly has some devastating intimacy issues that made her character a very unpleasant person though they just went away when it was convenient for the plot to do so and Ashton Kutcher just whines and whines and whines again and whines some more about his father and Emma and his TV writing career which, by the way, is actually going pretty well. There are a few saving graces like Kutcher's banter with his friends, one of whom is played by Ludacris. There's also a sexy and overly talkative associate producer played by Lake Bell who champions Adam's writing ambitions but those are all buried by the lack of laughs and the surplus of horrible people. Plus, it has some of the worst music I've heard in a long while. The whole score sounds like the same bad jazz song played just a bit differently each time. The music was what kept me from at least getting a nap.
Oh well, January is almost over and maybe we'll start getting some decent movies again. Looking at upcoming releases, I see Natalie Portman's Black Swan partner Mila Kunis has a new movie coming out with Justin Timberlake called Friends With Benefits in which they play two friends who become sex buddies and...AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!