Sticks and stones may break Judge Michael Rankins's bones, but calling him stupid just makes him cry like a little girl.
Woman. Man. Woman. Trouble.
This may be the least promising title bestowed on a film in the history of Hollywood.
Facts of the Case
Nebbishy writer Owen (David Krumholtz, Serenity, Numb3rs) is living every nerd's dream: His smoking hot girlfriend Chloe (Denise Richards, Wild Things) has just been tabbed to star in a network television sitcom. Unfortunately for Owen, Chloe quickly succumbs to the seductiveness of Hollywood fame and fortune—and of her hunky costar, whom she claims "put the beef in the beefcake" (illustrating his "beef" with a gesture involving two hands held about a foot apart).
With Owen left in the lurch by his star-stricken former flame, his pals Jack (Dan Montgomery Jr., Club Dread) and Diane (Jessica Cauffiel, Legally Blonde) set their socially challenged buddy up on a blind date with the eccentric Nadine (Milla Jovovich, Resident Evil). It's hate at first sight, as Owen opens the evening by comparing Nadine to a dog, then toboggans rapidly downhill into conversational hell from there. The second time they run into each other, at a local nightspot, Owen marks the occasion by lustily breaking wind.
But since the movie can't realistically end after twenty minutes, the inevitable occurs: Nadine slowly warms to Owen's geeky charms, and the two become fast friends—with Owen still pining over the duplicitous Chloe even as Nadine begins to feel the stirrings of genuine love for her oblivious male chum. Then, just as magic appears to be in the cards for Owen and Nadine, Chloe's star falls in L.A. and she comes crawling back into Owen's life, hoping he'll take her and her cheating heart back.
Sounds like a romantic comedy, doesn't it? Of course it does, you stupid man.
Despite its unflattering title, You Stupid Man is not a stupid film. Indeed, parts of it are rather clever, like director Brian Burns's use of subtitles to convey what Owen and Nadine are thinking—but not saying—as they part ways at the conclusion of their disastrous first date. (The device has been used before, but it's employed with a surprisingly deft and perceptive touch here.) Unfortunately, while not stupid, the movie does manage to be agonizingly predictable, while stretching the viewer's credulity far beyond the breaking point.
Let's start with the casting. David Krumholtz makes an interesting and believable supergeek in most of his onscreen roles, from the head elf in The Santa Clause movies to the crime-solving math whiz in the TV crime drama Numb3rs. But as a romantic lead, he's about as effective as Woody Allen, whom he tries desperately to imitate here. And just as we never quite accept the notion that the Woodman is really scoring babes like, say, the teenaged Mariel Hemingway in Manhattan, it's impossible for us to think even for a New York minute that Krumholtz's irritating, self-engrossed slacker is such a chick magnet that hot women like Denise Richards and Milla Jovovich keep falling for him. No way, no how.
As easy as it would be to say that the two lead actresses here are horrifically miscast—and one would be accurate in so saying—the movie might actually work better if Jovovich and Richards had swapped roles and played against type. At least the juxtaposition would have had interesting potential. Instead, we get Richards sleepwalking through yet another variation of the insanely beautiful, goggle-eyed blonde vixen she's portrayed a dozen or so times before, and Jovovich struggling mightily—and failing—not to act Krumholtz right off the screen. Never for a moment is there even a shred of chemistry between the actors. Krumholtz and Richards, in fact, interact like two people who just met at a read-through in the casting office, not like people who have actually slept together.
To its credit, Burns's script crackles with bouncy dialogue and lively supporting characters, including the newlywed couple engagingly played by Dan Montgomery Jr. and Jessica Cauffiel. It just doesn't go anywhere we haven't already been in far too many other romcoms. You Stupid Man isn't fresh, isn't funny often enough (although there are a handful of good laughs interspersed within the ennui), and never makes us identify with or invest in its off-putting leading man or its miscast leading women.
It isn't difficult to figure out that Warner Bros. didn't feel the love for You Stupid Man, shelving the picture for more than three years after its blink-and-you'll-miss-it limited release via the film festival circuit. This DVD presentation thus represents the first chance most Americans will have had to experience the film, and it seems certain that few will avail themselves of the opportunity. At least the pictures are clear and clean, and the sound—allegedly Dolby Digital 5.1, but I challenge you to find any use of the surrounds—gets the abundant dialogue to the viewer's ears without interference.
Looking for extra content on this disc? You stupid man. Or woman. Or whatever.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
It's still jarring, even after this much time, to see a film that features the World Trade Center so prominently in its opening credits, and later in its exteriors. You stupid terrorists.
Still thinking about forking over twenty bucks for this turkey? Now that's stupid.
The Court finds David Krumholtz guilty of ersatz Woody Allen, Milla Jovovich guilty of faulty project selection, and Brian Burns guilty of being the stupid man who concocted this mess. The Court also finds Denise Richards guilty of…well…gratuitous Denise Richards, but defers sentencing since she has already had to embarrass herself by making the sign of the beefcake, and making out on camera with David Krumholtz. We're in recess.
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