How Do You Know (Review)

(12/17/10; Romantic Comedy)
Reese Witherspoon, Jack Nicholson, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson
SCR/DIR: James L. Brooks
MPAA: PG-13 for sexual content and some strong language.
1 hour 56 mins
BOX: $30,212,620

Witherspoon is a career softball player kicked off the team because she’s 31. Rudd is a recently-dumped financial whiz being set up by his bastard tycoon father (Nicholson) to take a legal fall.

After a blind date with Rudd, she begins bouncing between him and narcissistic lothario Wilson (the only person in the movie who seems to be having fun). This wretched misfire from Brooks does everything wrong it possibly can. Punch lines are drawn out to allow for laughter beats and characters talk circles around each other. In scene after scene, people try to communicate (and advance the story) only to be shushed by whoever they’re talking to.

Wilson is a hoot; but Rudd’s spastic flailing suggests he’d be perfect in the John Ritter role in a Three’s Company remake. There is no amount of slapstick antics and facial tics that can make up for sitcom-level writing and surface-level performances that resonate as deeply as a first-time table read.

The film allegedly cost $120 million due to star salaries and Brooks’ penchant for shooting an abundance of takes ranging from subtle to broad. And when you wonder why all these people seem like they are starring in their own movie with no spatial relationship to each other, that’s probably why. Considering this is supposed to be a romantic comedy, that ain’t a good thing. (Columbia)


Author: Dennis Willis

Dennis Willis is an award-winning producer, TV host, producer, director, editor (he preferred Avid until a torrid affair with Adobe Premiere, and the rest is history), author and film critic (print and radio). Dennis produced and hosted the TV programs Reel Life, FilmTrip, Soundwaves (1983-2008) and produces the annual Soundwaves Xmas program. He is currently the film critic on KGO Radio in San Francisco, and a member of both the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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