If you like Steve Carell, you’ll like ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

There’s an old saying: Better lucky than smart.

I’ve applied it myself to more than a few of our former presidents.

It certainly applies to the new romantic comedy, “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” Written by Dan Fogelman and co-directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (they did the similarly schizoid but under-rated “I Love Philip Morris”), the movie is intermittently smart.

But it’s unbelievably lucky in that its blessed with one of the best casts of the year: Steve Carell (despite the too-obvious sheen of his Hollywood make-over), Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling (buff beyond belief), Marisa Tomei, Kevin Bacon and Amanda Stone The only weak link is Jonah Bobo an annoyingly self-aware child actor as the central couple’s 13-year-old son.

Long marrieds Carell and Moore seem to have it all: nice house, nice kids, nice jobs (though I’m not sure what Moore’s “associate to the vice president” actually does). But, having slept with a colleague (Bacon), she now wants a divorce.

The previews would have you believe the rest of the film is about the creation of a super-cool Carell, instructed in the finer points of seduction by certified swinging single, Gosling .

Carell gets new clothes, new hair and a new attitude. After a few Gap-slaps (soooo Gen X), he’s ready to go.

And where DOES he go? To an obnoxiously orange-lit bar that’s a seemingly endless eternal hell of brain-dead hotties looking for action.

However, that takes up about the first 40 minutes of the movie. The rest of its almost two hours is concerned with connecting (or re-connecting) with your soul mate.

Fogelman has several writing styles; I can’t think of two more opposite scripts than the ones he did for the loathsome “Cars” and the lithesome “Tangled.” Perhaps that explains the need for two directors who, as noted above, have some problems with tonal consistency, too.

At any rate, the picture shoots off in about two thousand different directions, resolutely held together by the SAG Superglue provided by the cast.

You either like Carell or you don’t. I do, though he’s losing some of the originality that made him so terrific in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Anchorman.” Moore is steady and reliable (and still gorgeous). Tomei serves up a doozy of a comic turn while Stone is foxy and winningly red-headed as the one girl in the Hell Bar who’s not like everyone else.

And Gosling— the brilliant actor more typically associated with dramatic character roles in movies like “Lars and the Single Girl” or “Half Nelson” — approaches his Lounge Lizard circa 1987 as if it were another character part. The rippling abs and seductive patter are cunningly comic character “tics.”

With this sort of work on view, it’s hard to tell you not to go. At the same time, “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is often more stupid than crazy. Like a Steve Martin movie from the mid-90’s, it’s bearable but should be better.

I consider it a toss-up — depending on your mood, your aversion/attraction to the actors and maybe something as simple as timing. That is, the movie you set out to see has already started.

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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