Glenn Ficara and John Requa’s (“I Love You Phillip Morris”) latest film “Crazy, Stupid, Love” has a lot going for it. It’s a well intentioned, touching romantic comedy about a whole lot of things, including young love, forbidden love, growing up, dealing with divorce, being something you’re not, fighting for the person you care about, family, and soul mates. It’s competently directed, the script by Dan Fogelmen (“Cars 2”) is filled with clever dialogue, and it features delightful performances by its leads. Unfortunately, the picture is too busy for its own good. Fogelmen stuffs in more than is needed.
Steve Carrell is the definite stand out of the film. Fresh off of leaving his sitcom “The Office” he really embodies the geekiness of his character Cal Weaver. A forty- something who has just been served divorce papers by his wife Emily (Julian Moore), Weaver wants to get back out on the dating scene but with a bad haircut, a suit that’s too big and 407 Balance shoes, he doesn’t have much luck.
Also he doesn’t quite know how to react to the situation. Like when Emily first tells him the news as they’re driving home from dinner, instead of trying to talk to her he jumps out of the car. This kind of wimpy and pathetic attitude is Carrell’s bread and butter and you feel for him.
After a couple miserable nights at the club he meets Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling), a ladies’ man, who always leaves with a beautiful woman or two. Palmer takes Weaver under his wing and teaches him his way to get laid. In no time Weaver is back at the club, sporting a new doo and new clothes, picking up woman like he’d been doing it for years.
Gosling and Carrell work surprisingly well together. Carrell’s timid nerdiness plays well off of Gosling’s young, smooth coolness. They share a lot of great scenes together, like when Jacob takes Cal shopping.
But even after being with all those women, Weaver realizes that he’s not that kind of guy and he still loves his wife. Palmer goes through a change of his own when he falls for a young law student Hannah (Emma Stone giving her usual charming but funky performance).
Now, the film should have focused its energy on those love stories. Instead it juggles these additional boring sub-plots: Emily’s relationship with David (a bland and underused Kevin Bacon), a co-worker she cheated with; Weaver’s son Robbie’s (Jonah Bobo) obsession with his seventeen year old baby sitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton); and finally an all-over-the-place Marisa Tomei, as Kate, a woman who turns psychotic when Weaver hooks up with her and doesn’t call back. Seriously, a comedy doesn’t need to have this much going on. All “The Hangover” required was a fat idiot, a cool guy, a semi-wuss, and some booze.
And speaking of comedy, “Crazy, Stupid, Love” isn’t that funny. Even though you can tell it wanted to be raunchy, the movie holds back. For example, when Cal and Jacob first meet, Jacob tells him to stop drinking his beverage through a straw because it looks like he’s sucking on a tiny “schlong”. It would have been funnier if he had just said…well you know.
Where the movie truly succeeds is emotionally. There are numerous moments between characters that are absolutely heartwarming, one in particular between Gosling and Carrell toward the end, after some shocking secrets have come out. The film actually works better as a light drama.
In the end, all the little plots do come together (sort of) and the film leaves you feeling good but also exhausted. Had “Crazy, Stupid, Love” been bolder with its comedy and narrower in its range, it would have been really good.