Fox // 2011 // 117 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // January 26th, 2012
Ally's looking for the best ex of her life.
Dear Hollywood: It's time to take a break from romantic comedies.
Stop me if you've heard this one before: What's Your Number? stars Anna Faris (Observe and Report) as Ally, a single twentysomething with a rather long dating history. After reading a magazine article that claims people with more than 20 sexual partners have almost impossible odds of finding a spouse, Ally panics. See, she's already been with 19 guys! So, Ally does what any rational, thinking being in the same position would do: she swears off sleeping with any more men so that number 20 will be her husband. And, just to increase her chances, she begins tracking down every one of her ex-boyfriends to see if there's any chance of a reunion. And wouldn't you know she's also able to enlist her impossibly handsome neighbor to help her (he's played by Chris Evans of Cellular)? And he has all kinds of free time because he's a musician? And the two of them may or may not begin to develop feelings for one another? I was as surprised as you are.
There are so many things I don't understand about the romantic comedy What's Your Number? that I almost don't know where to begin. For example, if Anna Faris is such a talented comedic actress (and I think she is), why are her only leading roles in junk like this and The House Bunny? And how is it possible that Chris Evans, who had his first true breakout with last year's Captain America: The First Avenger, could be so sincere and likable as the comic book superhero but come off as such a smarmy douche in this movie? And why, in the year 2011, are movies like What's Your Number? still being made? Is it that screenwriters have never seen a romantic comedy before? Or is it that they've seen every romantic comedy and just decided to stick with what's been tested?
I suppose the big distinction of something like What's Your Number? is that it's R-rated -- fairly rare for a romantic comedy these days -- and it's somewhat open about female sexuality (on paper, at least). As much as the film wants to believe this is about a woman owning her choices and acknowledging that women can have just as many sexual partners as men (you know that old double standard), that's not at all what the movie is about. What the screenplay (by Gabrielle Allan and Jennifer Crittenden, based on a novel by Karyn Bosnak) really says is that if you're a woman, you better not have sex with too many men or you'll never find a husband.
"But that's just the ridiculous high-concept premise of this romantic comedy," you may be saying. And you're right. What's Your Number? commits the double sin of not just introducing this offensively sexist premise, but then following through on it as though we should be taking it seriously. At no point does the film acknowledge just how stupid the premise is. At no point does the Faris character realize she's living her life according to an outdated standard of acceptable behavior -- not just for women, but for everyone (which isn't to suggest that everyone should be promiscuous or anything, but if you're going to try and be some sort of progressive, contemporary romantic comedy, you should be that). The movie doesn't even have the sense to call Ally's behavior into question for reasons other than "finding a husband." She doesn't worry that sleeping around could have physical or emotional consequences. She worries that she won't get a boyfriend.
While we're on the subject, Chris Evans' horrible treatment of the endless parade of women he beds isn't addressed either; it's a plot contrivance. He agrees to help Faris so she'll give him a place to hide from the young women who wake up in his bed -- you know, the ones who are probably confused and hurt and filled with shame and regret -- so that he won't have to "deal" with them. Faris isn't bothered by this. It's just one of his quirks. Again, a movie doesn't need to pass judgment on its characters in order to succeed, but it should at least take responsibility for them. Neither Faris nor Evans actually learns anything on their road towards romance with one another. They end up together because they are the most famous.
Hypocritical gender politics aside, What's Your Number? doesn't work because it's flat and utterly-slavishly-predictable. There isn't a beat in this movie that hasn't already been seen in dozens upon dozens of other romantic comedies. And while the premise allows for the possibility of many talented and welcome actors to play bit parts as ex-boyfriends (including Martin Freeman, Andy Samberg, Chris Pratt, Thomas Lennon, and Anthony Mackie), none of their scenes really amount to anything. The jokes are too broad (and not very funny), and the behavior of almost all of the characters resembles no actual human being. This is yet another romantic comedy that takes place only in "movie world." Faris has a sister who's getting married, who exists just to restate the plot in every one of her scenes ("So you're really going to track down all of your exes just so you don't sleep with over 20 people?"). There's a big falling out, only so there can be a big public declaration of love and we can be treated to the visual of Anna Faris riding a bike down a busy New York street while wearing a formal gown. Pause now, if you need to stop laughing.
What's Your Number (Blu-ray) arrives courtesy of Fox, offering two different versions of the movie: the R-rated theatrical cut, which runs 106 minutes, and an "ex-tended" cut (see what they did there? BARF) which lasts an interminable 117 minutes. Don't be fooled by the fact that the longer cut is "unrated," as it's the usual trick pulled by studios these days. It's only unrated because the film wasn't re-submitted for a rating, and doesn't offer any additional raunch or nudity or anything...if that's the kind of thing you're looking for. The 1.85:1/1080p HD transfer is typically solid, with bold color, good detail and no visible digital tinkering. Like a lot of romantic comedies, the movie is totally generic looking and tends to lean a little heavy on the oranges (especially when it comes to skin tones), but the Blu-ray does a fine job staying faithful to its intended appearance. Equally solid is the lossless 5.1 DTS-HD audio track, which offers clear dialogue and a lively presentation of the many unremarkable pop songs on the soundtrack -- yet another staple of the contemporary romantic comedy. That's all that's asked of the technical presentation, and the disc offers no more and no less.
I'd like to complain about the lack of bonus features, but truth be told it's kind of a relief from a reviewer's standpoint. I highly doubt any supplemental material would have changed my opinion of the movie or offered insight into the filmmaking process, so this paltry selection of extras only means there is less time to be spent going through them. All we get is a collection of deleted scenes, a gag reel that tries to convince us What's Your Number? was so much fun to make, a theatrical trailer, plus the obligatory DVD and digital copies.
I like Anna Faris. I like Chris Evans. I like romantic comedies. What's Your Number? should have at least been a mildly entertaining diversion. Instead, it's another soulless, lifeless romantic comedy from the same factory that produced most of Katherine Heigl's film work. Just about everyone involved deserves better.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English, Descriptive)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Version
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy
* Official Site