by Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
Despite the crazy, stupid punctuation of its crazy, stupid title, Crazy, Stupid, Love. is neither crazy nor stupid.
What it is is a warm and watchable ensemble comedy in screwball mode that is itself a slittle sloppy in its examination of the sloppiness of love.
Steve Carell, who also produced, stars as Cal Weaver, a fortysomething insurance executive and suburban married man who has life upended out of the blue one otherwise ordinary evening when Emily, his high school sweetheart and wife of twenty-five years, played by Julianne Moore, announces that she’s had an affair and wants a divorce.
At a local bar, a womanizing thirtysomething, Jacob Palmer, played by Ryan Gosling, senses Cal’s ineptness with the ladies and — exhibiting behavior that only a Hollywood screenwriter could possibly offer as commonplace — offers his advice, temporarily turning the movie into a bromance about romance.
Simultaneoulsy, commitment-phobic Jacob has fallen uncharacteristically hard for a law student named Hannah, played by Emma Stone, who sees right through Jacob’s textbook seduction techniques but responds to him anyway.
Meanwhile, Cal’s teenage son (Jonah Bobo) finds himself hopelessly smitten — in the way that only a 13-year-old boy can — with his little sister’s 17-year-old baby-sitter (Analeigh Tipton), while she finds herself having developed a huge crush on Cal, of all people.
The unrequited-feelings thrust of the script also extends to characters played by Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon, who also turn up to further complicate the romantic geometry.
Crazy, Stupid, Love. shifts focus constantly, as the what-fools-these-mortals-be storylines overlap. But the resourceful cinematography and idiosyncratic editing help keep us connected to the thematic through-line of this grown-up entertainment.
Carell’s turn as an injured everyman is both expert and expected, but Gosling, so impressive and intense in previous dramas, shows a real flair for light comedy in his witty rendering of a pickup artist and man-seeking-women mentor, even if the part is less than satisfactorily fleshed out on the page.
Stone and Tomei also get to shine, but Moore and Bacon can’t do much with their respectively underwritten roles. Or maybe the film is just too crowded with characters we’re expecting to get to know.
Rated PG-13, Crazy, Stupid, Love. is certainly less raunchy than most of its R-rated summer-comedy brethren (Bridesmaids, Bad Teacher, Horrible Bosses, Friends with Benefits), and has a sweetness at its core that renders us forgiving about its shortcomings and unfinished business.
Glenn Ficarra and John Requa — who co-wrote the outrageously cynical black comedy Bad Santa and co-directed the terminally quirky I Love Phillip Morris — work hard to finesse the genuine narrative surprises embedded in Dan Fogelman’s clever script.
But the literally tricky structure the directors stick to isn’t helped by the occasional false note, whenever the tenuous connection to reality and probable behavior is severed.
However, there are also grace notes, bracing revelations, and moments of affecting tenderness, as well as a skilled cast capable of making even the preposterous passages pass muster.
So we’ll romance 2½ stars out of 4 for the engaging multi-generational romantic comedy, Crazy, Stupid, Love. It would probably help being crazy or stupid to love it, but liking it is a breeze.