Movie review: 'What's Your Number?'

Anna Faris' sharp comedic talents are wasted in a sub-par romantic comedy.

September 30, 2011|By Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times Film Critic
  • Ally (Anna Faris) decides to search through guys she's already dated for her soul mate after reading a Marie Claire article in "What's Your Number?"
Ally (Anna Faris) decides to search through guys she's already dated… (Claire Folger / Twentieth…)

Anna Faris is so adorably entertaining that she can say things like — oh, let's see, what can we print here — well, she can say very bad words, which she's often asked to do in films, in fall-down funny and completely forgivable ways. She's got a perpetually sunshiny face that looks as if it's always playing catch-up, there to put the punctuation mark on whatever naughty bit she's just uttered while making the most of that sling-back mouth, those eye-popping baby blues, the nose crinkles (who knew a nose could be played for such comic effect?).

You can't help but wonder what it would be like to see her at the center of a really, really funny film that was really, really smart. What we have before us instead is "What's Your Number?," a not very good romantic comedy made somewhat bearable by Faris. It was supposed to be one of those films that lets women break through the R-rated comedy glass ceiling, but "Bridesmaids" beat it to the punch this summer, and with much better punch lines.

The basic operating principle here is that for women there is a magic number when it comes to love — if you haven't found Mr. Right by the time you've slept with 20 guys, you're unlikely to. Ever. At least according to an article in Marie Claire that Ally (Faris) spots. Karyn Bosnak's frothy book, "20 Times a Lady" started all this, with sitcom-tested Gabrielle Allan and Jennifer Crittenden adapting it for the big screen. Director Mark Mylod, who's spent a lot of time filming the exploits of "Entourage," so an old hand at sexy comedy in 30-minute bursts, is theoretically in control, although not as much as he should be.

The film is set in Boston, a nice, scenic change of pace after far too many New York City sets, and opens on a day that is already turning out to be tough for Ally. She's just been fired but, worse, she realizes her body count of boys she's bedded is at the tipping point. If unemployment and too many sexual encounters weren't enough, her nearly perfect younger sister, Daisy (Ari Graynor), is getting ready to tie the knot. Daisy's march toward an "I do" will serve as "normal" against all of Ally's outrages, and there are about to be a lot of them because she's decided to look up all her past loves to see if she can find her future soul mate among them.

Of course the guy who just may be the real deal is not on this list. Colin (Chris Evans) is a hunky, struggling musician with a revolving door of one-night stands. He lives right across the hall from Ally. And — this is the most important part — he retrieves his morning paper in the buff, with just a dish towel to cover his privates. Right. All I can say is if more apartments had guys like Colin around, newspapers wouldn't need to worry about circulation numbers.

Anyway, he and Ally meet when they're in the midst of mutual avoidance of their latest bedfellows. They soon develop a barter arrangement — he'll help track down her exes if he can use her apartment to hide out from all those dicey morning-afters. And so we're off to the races.

But hold your horses, here's the problemo. As lovely and likable as Faris is, as hunky and soulful as Evans can be, they really don't make for a good romantic match. It's hard to root for them to get together because although Ally and Colin seem perfectly nice, they don't seem like they were ever meant to be more than friends. There is comfort but no, I repeat no, chemistry.

There are other issues as well. The filmmakers don't seem to know what to do with all the time they've got, and they've got way too much of it. There are moments, an Ally meltdown or two among them, that are blazingly comic, and Blythe Danner is delightful as Ally's overbearing, never satisfied mother. But much more of the movie is merely mundane. You really do feel like they're checking off a list, working hard to get through all the exes. With 20, there are a lot of them, including the latest ex (Zachary Quinto), the once-fat, now-slim ex (Chris Pratt), the Brit (Martin Freeman), the doc (Thomas Lennon), the former boss (Joel McHale), the magician (Mike Vogel), the puppeteer (Andy Samberg), the gay politician (Anthony Mackie) and the perfect one, the holy grail of rich, handsome and available, played by Dave Annable. Thankfully, we're only required to catch up with these nine, but who's counting …

Faris, who's been such a bright spot in so many marginal films ("Observe & Report," "Take Me Home Tonight"), and a brighter spot in some fairly good ones ("The House Bunny," the "Scary Movie" franchise), is definitely overdue for that project that is a perfect match with her comic talents. Unfortunately, "What's Your Number?" just isn't it.

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