A Lot Like Love



Laura Clifford 
A Lot Like Love
Robin Clifford 
Emily (Amanda Peet, "Something's Gotta Give") and Oliver (Ashton Kutcher, "Guess Who") lock eyes at an airport and join the mile high club before they've even met.  Oliver is intrigued and pursues the aggressive girl who bets him that his plan to be financially secure with a house and a wife within seven years will go bust.  Oliver's parents' phone number proves useful a few years later when Emily cannot get a New Year's Eve date, but fate keeps getting in the way of the couple staying together.  Each new meeting, though, has them both thinking that their relationship is "A Lot Like Love."

Laura:
Director Nigel Cole ("Calendar Girls," "Saving Grace") moves across the pond to continue his production of unoriginal but blandly likable films.  Kutcher and Peet have charisma and chemistry here, but writer Colin Patrick Lynch, who borrows copiously from "When Harry Met Sally" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral," strains to keep them apart until throwing them together in a horribly cliched ending.  Still Kutcher and Peet's goofy wooing is playful and makes "A Lot Like Love" more enjoyable than not.

After that '7 years later' opener, we jump ahead to find Emily living with a self-absorbed creep, Peter (Gabriel Mann, "The Bourne Supremacy"), who dumps her when he's asked to pay attention to her career.  Her best buddy Michelle (Kathryn Hahn, "Around the Bend") and more critical pal Gina (Ali Larter, "Final Destination 2") insist she get out for New Year's Eve, but her little black book offers up no prospects.  Instead she finds the Martins' phone number tucked inside and on a whim, calls.  After a cute evening where Oliver takes a challenge not to speak literally during a meal in a Japanese restaurant, he tells her he's leaving the next day for San Francisco to turn his dot com idea into reality.  Emily takes him to her friends' party, but gets drunk when she spies Peter with a new woman, deep-sixing any chance of hooking up more significantly with Oliver, but she does find her photos taken years earlier in NYC in the packing boxes in his apartment.

Another two years later finds Oliver achieving his dream with partner Jeeter (Kal Penn, "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle"), but his live-in girlfriend Bridget (Moon Bloodgood, "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!") dumps him because he spends all his time at work. Meanwhile Emily's met Ben (Jeremy Sisto, "Wrong Turn"), but when Oliver turns up on her doorstep in LA needing a shoulder to cry on, the duo take to the road, eating junk food and singing badly.  The weekend is preserved in Emily's time-lapsed night photo of the two entwined naked against the desert sky.  This is the picture Oliver finds in an L.A. gallery, having returned from San Francisco after his business went bust.

Here's a typical example of character stupidity in movies like this - does Oliver go to Emily's apartment?  No!  He wastes days upon days hanging around the gallery hoping to bump into her before finally showing up in her courtyard to serenade her with a Bon Jovi song ("I'll Be There for You").  Even lazier writing has the film climax in dual wedding mixups when we've known all along how things will wrap. Despite these problems, though, Lynch has a good ear for dialogue and a good sense of character quirkiness that Kutcher and Peet work like pros.  Although we've seen the character before, Oliver's deaf brother Graham (deaf actor Ty Giordano) is a charming Cupid and Hahn feels like a real best friend.  Mann and Bloodgood both come across as hissable, though, too completely unsuitable as other significant partners in the lovers' lives.  Better someone appropriate enough to add tension, which Jeremy Sisto isn't given enough screen time to accomplish.

The film makes good use of its tri-city locations, not resorting to the typical tourist sights (except for the cliched but beloved romantic location underneath the end of the Brooklyn Bridge).  Music is well chosen and includes the likes of Aqualung's "Brighter Than Sunshine," Third Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed Life" and the Cure's "Mint Car."

C+

Robin:
An impromptu sexual interlude in the lavatory at the back of a commercial jet heading for New York brings Oliver (Ashton Kutcher) and Emily (Amanda Peet) together, however briefly. But, neither sees the short encounter as anything more than that until their paths cross again and again over the next seven years and something develops that is “A Lot Like Love.”

In what could be called “When Harry Met Sally for Adolescents” there is little romance or comedy in what, the filmmakers claim, is a romantic comedy. Where the Rob Reiner comedy, working with a script by Nora Efron, built up a relationship, romance and real friendship over the years between the title characters, helmer Nigel Cole does little more than string together several meetings between Oliver and Emily. Where the earlier film portrayed people, albeit Hollywood style, “A Lot Like Love,” written by Colin Patrick Lynch, does nothing to change the characters as the years pass – except for a series of bad wigs.

From the improbable setup where Emily jumps Oliver’s bones in the airplane lav, the story is simply a series of manufactured meetings that take place after three years, then two more, then one year, etc. Between these so-called romantic interludes where the one of the two is always just a little too late declaring their feelings – the other just entering a relationship with some generic significant other – we’re supposed to see how the pair impact each other over the years. This goes on and on, with some mistaken impressions thrown in along the way, until the inevitable happily-ever-after ending. I’ve been there many times before and mostly for the better.

I am not what you would call a fan of Ashton Kutcher. Aside from his famous (infamous?) relationship with Demi Moore, I had only noted the actor in his wooden performance in “The Butterfly Effect” and with Bernie Mac in “Guess Who,” where he benefited only because of his chemistry with Mac. So, with only this brief filmography available to me, I have to ask, why does this guy get work? I was not impressed before and, with “A Lot Like Love,” I am less so now. Kutcher almost makes Jason Biggs look like a thespian. Almost.

Amanda Peet must, too, be an acquired taste. I have always thought the actress too forced and artificial with one or two exceptions. I enjoyed her dental technician turned hit woman in the mediocre comedy, The Whole Nine Yards” and her femme vixen in “Igby Goes Down.” But, Emily Friehl is not a very compelling character and, without any spark between Kutcher and Peet, there is little in the movie to recommend it.

Supporting cast is without note, populated by mostly generic characters. One exception is Tyrone Giordano as Oliver’s deaf-mute brother, Graham. There is an honest quality to the character that made me want to see him in a better movie. Taryn Manning, as Oliver’s shrewish younger sister, Ellen, gets to chew scenery to some humorous effect.

Techs are straightforward but no one will be lining up to hand out awards to “A Lot Like Love.”

Maybe the teenage crowd will find appeal in “A Lot Like Love” but only those older viewers with undiscriminating taste would even bother. I have an idea! Rent “When Harry Met Sally” and order a pizza. For the same money as going to see this dud you’ll have a much better time. I give it a C-.

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