Judge Brett Cullum will make you JUMP JUMP for Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis.
Our review of Friends with Benefits (Blu-ray), published December 5th, 2011, is also available.
"I really have to stop buying into this bullshit Hollywood clich? of true love. Shut up, Katherine Hegel, you stupid, little liar!"—Jamie
Friends With Benefits is a predictable romantic comedy with an unpredictable couple of leads. Justin Timberlake (Bad Teacher) and Mila Kunis (Black Swan) are an odd pair that actually make us believe they should couple up…and we don't feel stupid or sappy rooting for them. It's to their credit this whole thing works.
Facts of the Case
Jamie (Kunis) is a headhunter who has just convinced art director Dylan (Timberlake) to move to New York City and take a job with GQ. Both have recently gone through rather nasty breakups, and challenge each other to go "George Clooney" and have incredible sex with no attachment. Of course, if they had watched Sex and the City on HBO, they would know that never works. And so our platonic friends sleep together to scratch the itch that drives them into bad relationships. Well, guess what? They sort of fall for each other, and things get complicated.
The plot is hackneyed and predictable, but something about Friends With Benefits works. I suppose the secret is in casting Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, because they make this movie more interesting than most romantic comedies. Maybe it's because they defy who we immediately think of for this type of project. She's got a funky shape, wide eyes, and whip smart comedic timing. He is cool, good at following anywhere that Kunis goes, and has enough charisma to make us like his leading man no matter what he says or does. It doesn't hurt that they both look pretty good without clothes and have massive appeal to a wide group of fans. Neither of them are in danger of winning an Oscar here but, because they're willing to laugh at themselves they make great romcom stars. Also adding to the fun are supporting bits provided by Woody Harrison (Zombieland), Patricia Clarkson (Whatever Works), Jenna Elfman (Keeping the Faith), and Richard Jenkins (Let Me In). Each presents a great character beat to the film which adds to the quirk that fights the formula.
The DVD has a nice 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that renders the colors naturally and offers lots of detail and depth. The 5.1 Dolby Surround mix is fine, with nice atmospherics creating the sounds of the city at appropriate moments. Extras include a fun breezy commentary with director Will Gluck joined by his leads Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake. That is the real star of this package, because nothing else could be more fun than hearing this trio goof on the movie they made. There are also a handful of deleted scenes and outtakes.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
My biggest beef with Friends With Benefits is that it's self-aware enough to constantly make fun of romantic comedies, yet falls victim to all of the genre's stale trappings. The setup is far too cute, there are musical montages, the characters create conflict where there is none, and the wrap-up is way too neat. The director and stars actually rewrote a lot of the scenes to fit the cast, but I wish they would have tinkered with the plot a bit more. Most of what makes it trite are the machinations the filmmakers feel they had to adhere to.
Friends With Benefits is a fun romantic comedy, thanks to a cast that overcomes a predictable plot. Anyone familiar with the "rules" of romcoms will know exactly how the story will end. Thankfully the stars are smart enough to know they are stuck in a movie that will only work if they fight like heck to make it original.
Guilty of being a predictable romantic comedy with an unpredictable cast.
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