Sunday, January 23, 2011

No Strings Attached **

Starring Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline, Greta Gerwig, Lake Bell, Olivia Thirlby, Cary Elwes, Ludacris and Jake M. Johnson

Rated R (for sexual content, language and some drug material)

Directed by Ivan Reitman

Screenplay/Story by Elizabeth Meriwether and Michael Samonek

* *

"No Strings Attached:" Dignity Hangs by a Thread

If you can’t get enough of Natalie Portman this season, then by all means, rush to see “No Strings Attached.” Soak up the gorgeous pint-sized actress’s offbeat, quirky humor. Otherwise, this film is one to Netflix.

It’s not that Kutcher and Portman don’t have chemistry, they surely do. Nor is it that they aren’t believable in their roles: Portman is Emma, a brilliant commitment-phobe doctor and Kutcher is Adam, a wannabe writer with a big heart. Even the script and storyline aren’t bad; it’s Hollywood’s effort to appeal to both sexes watching the film that baffles me.

Instead of smart humor that tickles the funnybone, there are endless penis and vagina jokes. The writers rely on a lot of raucous humor and drug references to draw laughs, which has become all too predictable in this new generation of rom-coms. While “No Strings Attached” isn’t as horribly off-target (and offensive to both sexes) as 2009’s “The Ugly Truth” with Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler, it comes in as a distant second. Its saving grace is the quality of the acting and the story.

Despite all of this, there are several winning supporting actors that bring humor to the film on a much simpler level. Kevin Kline is Kutcher’s horrible father and young talent Olivia Thirlby plays Portman’s younger sister. Other appearances, unfortunately few and far between are from Cary Elwes and “The Office’s” Mindy Kaling.

Amusing throughout, with some sweetly romantic moments, “No Strings Attached” misses the mark on being truly entertaining to both men and women. Instead it relies on dumbing down its audience with base humor for a quick laugh. I have high hopes that audiences are looking for more than that.

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