By Bill Wine

KYW Newsradio 1060

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I do know how they do it.

They follow the formula for domestic comedy that soothes without stimulating. Pity that they don’t do it better.

I Don’t Know How She Does It is a by-the-numbers comic exploration of the working mom dilemma.  Charm and chemistry aren’t exactly absent, but they are (like the number of hours in a day for a mother of two with a high-powered employer) in short supply.

Sarah Jessica Parker stars as Kate Reddy, a stressed working mother of two in Boston trying to balance — that is, juggle — her hectic family life with her career as a high-finance executive with an investment firm that demands long hours and extensive travel.

Kate wins the plum assignment of making a presentation to a powerful New York City client played by Pierce Brosnan, but her husband, an out-of-work architect played by Greg Kinnear, gets a new contract at the same time, creating all kinds of absentee-mommy child-rearing problems for the Reddys — and a new avoiding-temptation problem for Kate.

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The watchable supporting cast also includes Christina Hendricks as Kate’s insightful best friend, Olivia Munn as her efficient and unemotional junior associate, Kelsey Grammer as her demanding boss, Jane Curtin as her skeptical mother, and Seth Meyers as her insinuating office rival.  No one in the large cast drops the ball, but no one offers the kind of vividness or impact that will allow them to outlive the film either.

Director Douglas McGrath (Infamous, Emma) resorts to the gimmick, overused (especially on television) of late, of addressing-the-camera interviews with characters, but even these welcome interruptions to Kate’s frenetic behavior– which threatens to exhaust us — fails to empathetically corral us.

The screenplay by Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada, Morning Glory, 27 Dresses), based on the 2002 Allison Pearson novel of the same name but transplanting the action from London to Boston, sags in spots, going for laughs but getting only smiles of recognition.  Even if it amusing without actually being funny, however, the film still offers its share of useful observations and truisms, even if they’re meant to please rather than challenge an appreciative target audience.

This decidedly white-collar presentation includes a bowling scene, as if to gain blue-collar credibility, but to no avail.  The film’s ultimate point ca’t help but be blunted by the level of income implied and the nanny-dependent lifestyle on display.  Whether female audience members trying to accomplish what the protagonist attempts to accomplish the trifecta of wife, mom and work whiz — without the Reddy resources is an interesting question.  That is, make Parker’s character a waitress or a clerk and then we’ll talk.

Anyway, as the film’s tagline (“If it were easy, men would do it too.”) and marketing campaign (“the perfect film for a girls’ night out”), I Don’t Know How She Does It is aimed directly and primarily, maybe even exclusively, at the female demographic.  Parker, who could just as well be playing Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City several years down the line — and similarly addresses us in voiceover throughout — is technically fine throughout, but doesn’t have quite enough presence or come-hither charisma to mask the film’s blemishes.

So we’ll schedule 2 stars out of 4 for the middling can-a-woman-have-it-all comedy, I Don’t Know How She Does It.  Like its heroine, it feels too busy and harried by half.

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