As we have pointed out many times before, romantic comedies require very specific ingredients. Most importantly, you need mismatched leading players and a supporting group of wacky friends/neighbors/townspeople to offer advice, difficulty and atmosphere.
As we’ve also pointed out many times before, rom-com plot elements have become so predictable and well-defined that their success lies almost solely in the charm provided by said leading couple and their wacky friends/neighbors/townspeople.
Based on these criteria, “She’s Out of My League” does OK.
Our mismatched couple is Kirk (Jay Baruchel, “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian”) and Molly (Alice Eve, “Crossing Over”). Kirk is a man-boy suffering from low self-esteem. He lives at home, drives a crappy old Neon, and works at the Pittsburgh airport as a security screener. He’s still hung up on his ex-girlfriend, Marnie (Lindsay Sloane, “Over Her Dead Body”), who has somehow installed herself in his family, even while hooking up with the lunkheaded Jim (Hayes MacArthur, TV’s “Worst Week”). Her painful presence and his family’s disregard for his feelings are demoralizing for Kirk, to say the least.
Molly, on the other hand, is a vivacious blonde who gave up a law career to be a highly successful event planner. She is well-adjusted, smart and nice. After a chance encounter in the airport, she invites Kirk to an event, where they hit it off.
This brings us to the wacky supporting cast. Molly has her planning partner, Patty (Krysten Ritter, “Confessions of a Shopaholic”), to tell her what to do, while Kirk has Stainer (T.J. Miller, “Extract”), Jack (Mike Vogel, “Cloverfield”) and Devon (Nate Torrence, “My Best Friend’s Girl”). All of them are obsessed with the idea that Molly is way too good-looking for Kirk.
Again, the plot is totally predictable, so any entertainment value comes from chemistry and charm. Kirk and Molly really don’t seem suited for each other in the beginning, but over the course of the movie, Baruchel and Eve manage to find equilibrium between their characters. Unlike most rom-com couples, even if you’re not exactly rooting for them, you can at least like them and maybe not wish them dead.
Ritter underplays the bitchy-best-friend archetype, which, frankly, is a relief. Stainer is the most over-the-top of Kirk’s friends, and one senses that Miller sees this role as his big chance to achieve the questionable goal of becoming the next Jason Lee.
Overall, the humor style and emphasis on ensemble interaction points toward the filmmakers trying to emulate “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” While they manage a watered-down approximation of that movie’s flavor, the story, cast and direction (sorry, Jim Field Smith) just aren’t as strong.
And while Baruchel manages to carry the leading role on his narrow shoulders, he ain’t no Steve Carell. On the other hand, Baruchel has time on his side. With a little more experience, he may be able to develop some gravity to balance his hangdog, goofy-guy shtick. “Mike Robertson