Even the delectable Anna Faris cannot get us to root for the character she plays in this charmless, distasteful dud. The first scene is weirdly identical to the opening of “Bridesmaids,” and one of the movie’s scarce pleasures is the opportunity to consider how the same introduction to both characters can make us see Kristin Wiig as needy but sympathetic and Faris as insincere and manipulative. And it’s downhill fast from there.
Ally (Faris) has lost her job but what really worries her is an article in a woman’s magazine about what your “number” says about you. That would be the number of men she has slept with, and hers is 20 after series of terrible choices, most recently a drunken encounter with the boss who told her she was being laid off (Joel McHale of “Community”). Believing she can never get married if her number goes any higher (because of some vague “study”), she decides to go through her reject pile to see if anyone from her past might be her Mr. Right. She enlists the aid of the hunky guy across the hall (Chris Evans of “Captain America” and “Puncture”) to help her track them down. Meanwhile, her sister (Ari Graynor of “Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist”) is getting married and her mother is putting a lot of pressure on her.
So, the ingredients for a sparkly rom-com are in place: plucky heroine in need of a self-esteem boost after some romantic stumbles meets Prince Charming who uniquely appreciates the real her. And there’s even a chance to give bit parts to an array of handsome and talented actors as the exes.
The problem is that the gaping disconnect between the movie’s view of Ally as an adorable heroine and Faris’ game attempt to play her that way quickly collide with the inescapable unpleasantness of the characters and their actions. Ally swears she will not have sex with anyone else and then gets drunk, gives her engaged sister a mean-spirited and crude toast, and sleeps with her finger-smelling ex-boss (don’t ask). As a teen, when her boyfriend was away, Ally promised to wait until he returned so they could be each other’s first time. Then for no reason she impetuously has sex with a random dweeb just so we can see Andy Samberg with braces on his teeth and a puppet on his hand, making weird sounds while she looks bored. This might be an interesting movie if Ally was an unashamed advocate of sex for pleasure or if she acknowledged that her past behavior was trashy and self-destructive. Instead it seems a sad relic of the discredited “every player gets a trophy” school of self-esteem. Evans tries to make up for his character’s complete absence of any personality beyond running out on his one-night stands and taking off his clothes but there’s only so much anyone can do with this material.
The set-ups are weak: Anthony Mackie plays an ex who is a closeted gay man. Martin Freeman (“Love Actually”) is an ex whose English accent inspired Ally to lie about who she was and pretend to be English, too. Faris’ real-life husband Chris Pratt (“Moneyball”) is engaged to someone else and thinks their accidental encounters mean she is stalking him. The resolutions of all of these encounters are even weaker.
Ally is self-absorbed without having any self-respect, and the same can be said of the film. It is depressingly unaware of its own failure to give us one reason to care about a girl who does not seem to care about anyone but herself. It is sad to think that this miserable mess was inflicted on Faris — and us — by a female novelist and two female screenwriters. Anna Faris is beautiful, smart, funny, and fearless. Is it that hard to write her a comedy that lets her show it?
Parents should know that this movie includes extremely graphic sexual references and situations, the theme of coming to terms with a promiscuous past, drinking and drunkenness, very strong and crude language, rear and side nudity and skimpy clothes.
Family discussion: Why did Ally make such foolish choices? Why was it hard for her to forgive herself? Why was Jake wrong for her?
If you like this, try: “Bridesmaids” and “House Bunny”