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Can you believe how lame this is? (l-r) Johansson and Barrymore in He’s Just Not That Into You.

Wrong Guy, Wrong Movie

By Ann Morrow

He’s Just Not That Into You

Directed by Ken Kwapis

He’s Just Not That Into You was inspired by a remark on an episode of Sex and the City, and that’s where it should’ve stayed. Instead, two of the show’s writers, Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, wrote a self-help book based on the line, and now there’s a movie that’s less substantial than the episode. Oh, and it stars Jennifer Connelly, Scarlett Johansson, and Drew Barrymore, who don’t exactly bring a wealth of experience with rejection to their roles. For Connelly, who plays a married mother of two with an immature husband, the strain of being miscast is visible in every scene.

Not that any cast could improve this glossily insulting piece of chick-flick fluff. A series of interlocking stories, it centers on Gigi (adorable Ginnifer Goodwin), a self-confessed date stalker who becomes obsessed with Conor (Kevin Connelly), a bland real-estate agent, after one date. But Conor is only interested in his gal pal, Anna (Johansson), a dim-witted Don Juanita who is pursuing Ben (Bradley Cooper), a generic jock who is married to uptight Janine (Connelly). Anna is friends with Mary, who is Ben’s advertising rep. Hoping for a chance encounter with Conor, Gigi meets Alex (Justin Long) at the bar he manages, and he bluntly tells her that Conor is not interested in her. For some unfathomable reason, Gigi and Alex become friends, and he continues to crush her hopes about every guy she meets. Meanwhile Beth (Jennifer Aniston) reluctantly breaks up with her longtime boyfriend, Neil (Ben Affleck), because he’s against marriage on principal.

And that’s the plot: to put the women in humiliating situations with men who are shallow (or blatantly misogynistic, like party-boy Alex). Gigi’s relationship neuroses are accentuated to ridiculous ends, and her demeaning dating faux pas are not the least bit funny. There’s some mildly amusing commentary from Mary (Barrymore) on the hazards of dating through technology (between e-mailing, voice-mailing, texting, cell and home phoning, MySpacing, instant messaging, and video chatting, she says, “that’s seven ports to get seven rejections from”), but Mary has the least screen time.

In contrast to a Sex episode, the film’s wardrobe is as nondescript as a Land’s End catalog—but that’s a miniscule complaint considering its advice-column scenarios consist of hooking up and putting up with jerks.

An Inspector Stalls

The Pink Panther 2

Directed by Harald Zwart

The 2006 Pink Panther reboot was a prime indicator of Hollywood’s bone-dry idea bank. Here was a series that had become a parody of itself before Peter Sellers was even dead, brought back to the screen on the premise that it would be funny to have Steve Martin do a fake French accent. (Which is a major miscalculation: Martin hasn’t made a funny film in 20 years.)

Naturally, it made a bajillion dollars.

Which, naturally, prompted a sequel. And in big-star, major-franchise, Hollywood fashion, The Pink Panther 2 is almost completely innocuous. There’s nothing about the film that elicits major groans, but then there’s nothing terribly memorable about the film at all. It’s light, breezy, and dumb—none of which is meant in a particularly complimentary way.

Steve Martin reprises the role of Inspector Clouseau, who at the outset is assigned to parking-ticket duty. When a series of historical artifacts are stolen—including the Pink Panther diamond, duh—Chief Inspector Dreyfuss (John Cleese, stepping in for Kevin Kline in everything but the French accent) assigns Clouseau to a “dream team” of investigators that includes Andy Garcia, Alfred Molina, Yuki Matsuzaki, and Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Emily Mortimer and Jean Reno return as, respectively, Clouseau’s girlfriend/assistant, Nicole, and partner, Ponton. They all set off on a series of location shoots around Europe to find the thief, and ta-da, there’s your film.

Again, in typical Hollywood-sequel fashion, the picture is stuffed with recognizable names, if only to distract from the thinness of the plot. But even the actors themselves seem distracted: Jeremy Irons looks terribly bored in his role as one of the theft suspects; Molina is simply wasted in a role that offers nothing to the picture but another familiar face. Even Cleese seems to be going through the motions, never quite taking advantage of the absurd notion that the French Chief Inspector is suddenly, for some reason, British. The filmmakers’ ace in the hole—the onscreen reunion of Martin with his All of Me co-star Lily Tomlin, for the first time in 25 years—is just another opportunity untapped, thanks to the lack of decent material.

Stocked with half-baked verbal slapstick and pratfall after pratfall after pratfall, The Pink Panther 2 is not quite an abomination: It’s efficiently directed, and supplies a few decent chuckles without resorting to gratuitous boots to the crotch. But for a picture with a budget in the dozens of millions, it feels more like a warmup than an exercise.

—John Brodeur


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