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Monday, July 25, 2011

Friends With Benefits (Release Date: 7-22-2011)

        Movies sometimes have a tendency to be released in bunches. Everyone always brings up the pair of Period Magician movies (The Illusionist and The Prestige) that both came out during 2006, as well as the 9/11 pictures (United 93 and World Trade Center) that did the same. My personal favorite is the slew of Pregnancy comedies that were released between 2007 and 2008 (In chronological order: Waitress, Knocked Up, Juno, and Baby Mama). But even so, the similarities between this last weekend's Friends With Benefits, and last January's No Strings Attached seem startlingly pronounced. Besides having the same central theme (can friends have sex and not become emotionally attached? Hollywood's answer: NEVER EVER EVER), the Two have a shared history with both Black Swan (NSA's Natalie Portman, FWB's Mila Kunis), and That 70's Show (NSA's Aston Kutcher, Kunis), AND No Strings Attached was originally named Friends With Benefits. How's that for casting a shadow?

        Sub out the aforementioned Kutcher, and sub in Justin Timberlake, who stars as Dylan, a graphic designer newly transplanted to New York City to work for GQ Magazine. Kunis plays Jamie, the head-hunter that not only brought Dylan to the job in the first place, but remains his only real friend in the area. After a late-night drunken romantic comedy viewing, the Two start to bemoan the cost of sex, and how commitment and feelings always tend to ruin something that should be a purely physical act. Believe it or not, they then head to the bedroom, and we count down the minutes until each predictable plot twist takes place.

        What's interesting about Friends With Benefits (and what sets it apart from No Strings Attached, for that matter) is that it has a handful of moments where it really hits a stride, and you start thinking it might be able to morph into something as scandalously fun as the title's description. Most notably, the chemistry between Timberlake and Kunis is leagues ahead of the Portman-Kutcher pairing, who both seemed a bit cold-blooded for the premise in the first place. The FWB duo is much better at playing off of each other, their conversations flowing naturally, managing to squeeze far more than their fair share of chuckles out of the movie's mostly eye-rollingly lame script (And that all goes without mentioning that a few of their under-sheets adventures are shot and played to tantalizing effect). Much like his work on last year's Easy A, Director Will Gluck sets the whole thing to a zippy, crisp pace, but with last year's effort, he had the benefit of a much stronger screenplay. I feel like there should be more to explain, but perhaps there really isn't: Friends With Benefits is exactly the movie that you expect it to be, pushed up by its charismatic leads and a few winning moments, and pulled down by an extended runtime, and an absolute avalanche of cliche and predictability. If you're looking for a movie to forget by tomorrow morning, this is your pick.

Grade: C

1 comment:

  1. After suffering through about 45 minutes, we walked out. I laughed about 2 times (small snickers) and Lauren barely even smiled.