Friday, September 19, 2008

My Best Friend's Girl

Some movies are just good enough to make you wish they were a lot better. I obviously enjoyed My Best Friend’s Girl a good deal more than most other critics – just as I’ve been slightly more appreciative of Dane Cook, the star of this foul-mouthed rom-com – but I would have liked it much, much more had it continued down the dark and nasty path where it appeared to be heading during the first two-thirds of its running time.

Cook – who I believe would be perfectly cast as the bad-ass anti-hero, or even the villain, of some graphic-novel adaptation – is almost too credible for comfort in the lead role of Tank, a customer-service telerep who moonlights as “an asshole” – his own self-description – for fun and profit. (Insert joke about typecasting here.) In the world according to screenwriter Jordan Cahan, any fellow who’s dumped by his girlfriend can win her back simply by paying Tank to treat the unfortunate lady to the worst date of her life. All it takes is a single night out with the purposefully obnoxious and sexually aggressive lout, and the once and future girlfriend is ready to run back to the guy she left behind.

Tank is so adept at his avocation that his services are sought by Dustin (Jason Biggs), his roomie and best and friend. Hopelessly smitten with Alexis (Kate Hudson), a beautiful co-worker, Dustin proposes to her barely five weeks into their relationship. But Alexis isn’t ready to proceed so quickly, so she rebuffs his overeager overtures. To make her see what he sees as the error of her ways, Dustin entreats Tank to make Alexis appreciate how much worse off she would be with… well, someone like Tank.

Complications arise, however, as Alexis – actively encouraged by Amy (Lizzy Caplan), her randy roommate – realizes that, at this particular point in her relatively unexciting life, what she really, really wants isn’t Mr. Right, but Mr. Right Now. That is, a stud muffin who makes booty calls without demanding commitments. Which, of course, makes Tank the wrong man in the right place at the right time.

As I said: Up to a certain point, My Best Friend’s Girl comes across as an anti-rom-com – note the passing digs at Nora Ephron and Ghost – and there’s even a strong hint that, during a profanely funny sequence introduced with clever use of Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around,” one lead character is deliberately effecting an unhappy ending. But that only makes the final scene seem even more like a tacked-on compromise that may have been added after unsuccessful preview screenings. Truth to tell, it plays like the live-action equivalent of a moment in a cartoon where a character paints himself into a corner, then simply paints a door on a wall to magically escape a seemingly inescapable situation.

You can read my full Variety review here.

No comments: