Mark Reviews Movies

What's Your Number?


1 ˝ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Mark Mylod

Cast: Anna Faris, Chris Evans, Ari Graynor, Blythe Danner, Joel McHale, Anthony Mackie, Chris Pratt, Martin Freeman, Heather Burns, Eliza Coupe, Kate Simses, Tika Sumpter, Ed Begley Jr., Zachary Quitno, Thomas Lennon

MPAA Rating: R (for sexual content and language)

Running Time: 1:46

Release Date: 9/30/11

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Review by Mark Dujsik | September 29, 2011

Anyone who attempts to arrive at hard-and-fast rules regarding comedy is destined to fail. There is, I (and many others) believe, one exception, and that is acceptance. Without it, a joke has nowhere to go; there's no punch line if the chicken stays on the side of the road where it began.

What's Your Number? has a major comic obstacle in the fact that its protagonist approaches her search to find Mr. Right in a constant state of denial. Even the setup has her rejecting the very real and very obvious possibility that the right guy might not be someone she has already dismissed or who has already rejected her. She has reached her limit of sexual partners, based on a fleeting glance at a statistic that states she is just about at double the number of the average count of lovers that women have in their lifetime. Just after she decides that the next man with whom she has sex will be the man she marries, her number goes up one more, and he, it turns out, is not the marriageable type.

This specific scenario is funny in the scheme of the larger one, because it means Ally Darling (Anna Faris) has accepted something, no matter how big a mistake it might actually be. After raising toast after toast to a new lifestyle of celibacy—with drink after drink accompanying it (Setting up the joke, in this case, is actually funnier than the payoff)—her protestations are for naught, and she awakes the next morning to find herself naked in bed with the man (Joel McHale) who just recently fired her. The resulting scene demonstrates that knowing when to quit is also important to comedy. Apparently, the vow and the background information about their relationship isn't enough for her to eliminate him as a desirable mate; he has to sniff his fingers after shoving his hand down his underwear to seal the deal.

From this moment on, Ally is dedicated to rekindling the romance with one of her ex-boyfriends, since, if she already had sex with a guy, it won't increase her number of partners. Her sister Daisy (Ari Graynor) and friends insist that, according to a study that they've read, if Ally has sex with more than 20 people, she will most likely wind up a lonely, old spinster. At this point, after watching her analyze this theory to death, we realize that finding a job might be a more productive avenue for Ally to explore.

To aid her in her quest, Ally enlists the help of Colin (Chris Evans), her lothario of an across-the-hall neighbor who each morning has a new woman he's trying to subtly get out of his apartment so he can never call her again. She's sickened by his womanizing ways, which naturally means that she just needs to look past them (and the out-of-work musician with boundary issues on the surface) to see a guy just looking for the perfect woman with whom to settle down.

Faris and Evans play off each other well enough in their characters' so-wrong-it's-destined-to-be-right relationship, though her disgust with him (Oddly enough, when it comes time to put up a roadblock to hinder their progress, the screenplay falls back on Ally's oath to not add new notch to her bedpost, which seems as arbitrary as the game of numbers itself) and his role as her private investigator seem to be deal-breakers that no amount of gossip, nighttime skinny dipping, or admiration of her hobby of creating miniature sculptures of urban scenes could overcome. Then again, Gabrielle Allan and Jennifer Crittenden' script (based on a novel by Karyn Bosnak) doesn't much care about developing its scenario beyond foregone conclusions.

The time in between Ally and Colin's non-sexual romps follows her half-hearted efforts to track down her ex-boyfriends, and like Ally, the script is dismissive of her plan. There's a string of cameos from actors including Martin Freeman, Anthony Mackie, Chris Pratt, Thomas Lennon, Andy Samberg, and Dave Annable, all of whom have minimal dialogue and whose characters have one quirky trait that wrecked the prior relationship with Ally. Freeman's, for example, is English, and so Ally, to make him feel at home in the States, put on a British dialect, which she attempts to maintain while playing catch-up but winds up with some Eastern European accent. One was a puppeteer and brought his puppet to bed with him; another was fat and has since lost weight.

The scenes with the exes stop short so suddenly (or never happen once Ally realizes at a single glance that they haven't changed) that whatever potential for humor might be present is never realized (Director Mark Mylod seems to be overcompensating for the herky-jerky flow by keeping the camera moving for no discernable reason). What's Your Number? startles itself from complacency when its jokes turn blue out of blue near the end (rape, suggested incest), but then it turns out the only thing the movie can accept is staying complacent.

Copyright © 2011 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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