Director Ivan Reitman’s new motion picture “No Strings Attached” may masquerade as a raunchy, guy-friendly comedy but, at the end of the day, it is just like every other mediocre rom-com.
Sure, Elizabeth Meriwether’s screenplay occasionally packs a punch with some surprisingly mature language and situations. But it also follows the same old tired formula and features a few too many cheesy lines than this critic cares to handle.
However, most appalling of all is the fact that Natalie Portman, fresh off the performance of her career in “Black Swan,” degrades herself as a whiny, self-absorbed sex addict in “No Strings Attached.” We expect this kind of stuff from costar Ashton Kutcher but Portman? Say it isn’t so!
Portman plays Emma, a woman whose career in the healthcare industry appears to take precedent over her own well-being. She has got very little free-time on her hands but, needless to say, has still got the same needs and urges as every other warm-blooded female.
Meanwhile, Kutcher plays Adam, a guy who works on the set of a “High School Musical” -esque television series, likely because his father (Kevin Kline), having starred in the classic sitcom “Great Scott,” is a staple of the entertainment industry.
Emma and Adam were once childhood friends but they grew apart as their lives took them in opposite directions. However, after running into each other a few times later in life, they have sex on a whim. And, in order to protect their friendship, they make a pact to keep their relationship “no strings attached.”
That is to say Emma and Adam decide to use each other for sex for as long as they do not develop more serious feelings for one another. There is just one problem, Adam is already head over heels in love with Emma – a fact that complicates their unique arrangement and threatens their friendship.
Portman’s character is inherently unlikeable and in dire need of some serious therapeutic intervention. This gets in the way of there being any chemistry whatsoever between her and Kutcher, who always seems somewhat bored whenever he is not playing a complete imbecile.
Therefore, many of the best bits in “No Strings Attached” come from the film’s too-large supporting cast, which includes Greta Gerwig, Lake Bell, Olivia Thirlby, Carey Elwes and Ludacris. There was likely a much longer film here, considering Adhir Kalyan’s talent is wasted in a role with no more than one spoken line of dialogue.
That is not to say “No Strings Attached” is short, by any means. In fact, it feels a lot longer than it actually is, thanks to some abrupt scene changes and jumps in time as well as a few too many subplots that, quite frankly, deserved to have been played out much more than the central storyline.
Having said that, Reitman has some pretty good comic timing and guys who are dragged to this romantic comedy by their girlfriends will find at least the first half tolerable. However, before long, “No Strings Attached’s” mask is removed to reveal what is ultimately just a formulaic chick-flick in disguise.
“No Strings Attached” (R – 108 minutes) is now playing at movie theaters throughout the Valley. Visit NCM.com for specific showtimes and locations.
Are you a cineholic? SUBSCRIBE to the Phoenix Movie Examiner, listen to Joseph J. Airdo’s movie review segment every Friday during the 5 p.m. hour of “The Daily Blender with Jeffry O’Brien” on NBC 1260 AM / 96.1 FM and read his Silver Screen Scoop column in AZ Weekly Entertainment Magazine.