With its stock characters and low-expectation high jinks, the German import "What a Man" could have been fabricated on the Hollywood rom-com assembly line.
The directing debut of screen star Matthias Schweighöfer, who also co-scripted and plays the lead, fits all too neatly into a familiar mold: In romantic crisis, a milquetoast does a bunch of stupid things on the way to finding true love and locating his spine.
The formulaic aspect wouldn't be a problem, though, if the material (co-written by Doron Wisotzky) generated any hilarity. A movie that ostensibly questions stereotypes about masculinity, it abounds in clichés.
The Frankfurt settings lend little texture to the ultra-generic romp, which finds nice-guy schoolteacher Alex (Schweighöfer) discarded by his ice-queen cartoon of a girlfriend (Mavie Hörbiger), who prefers the kinky assertiveness of their upstairs neighbor (Thomas Kretschmann).
Setting out to prove his manliness, Alex samples wilderness workshops, nightclubs and the foolish advice of his friend Okke (Elyas M'Barek), who likens women to lollipops, men to horses.
As with many a romantic comedy, the lovelorn guy doesn't see what's clear as day: the woman who truly cares about him. Alex's discovery process is especially belabored. His destiny with the lovely Nele (Sibel Kekilli, of "Game of Thrones" and "Head-On") is as obvious as the contrast between her and Alex's controlling ex.
The director leaves no room for real tension, though, and the two leads' bright chemistry isn't enough to counteract the production's glossy blandness.
"What a Man." MPAA rating: R for sexual content and language; in German with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. At the Phoenix Big Cinemas Dos Lagos 15, Corona.