By Dirk Sonniksen | January 21, 2011
Director: Ivan Reitman
Writer(s): Elizabeth Meriwether (screenplay, story), Michael Samonek (story)
Starring: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline, Cary Elwes, Greta Gerwig
Adam (Ashton Kutcher) and Emma (Natalie Portman) are childhood sweethearts (sort of) who begin to meet sporadically as they grow into adulthood. Adam is a bumbling sort of fellow who obviously has the hots for Emma. Emma, equally bumbling in her own way, is a reticent little creature, but as it turns out, she does love a good roll in the hay. And so the story goes, as Adam and Emma begin their clandestine meetings that end in sexual bliss. This “no strings attached” approach can only go awry, and guess what? It does just that, with one of the two (I won’t say which) falling head-over-heels for the other. Oh my, what a tangled web we weave, and how on Earth could this movie possibly end?
Well, I’ll let you decide whether or not to tough this one out for the grand finale. Let me just say, No Strings Attached is essentially the love story you’ve come to expect from love stories these days, with a couple of noteworthy exceptions:
Exception #1: No Strings Attached is filthy with references to dicks, vaginas, and other things that might be offensive to folks with a weak constitution, which, fortunately, I lack. That’s not to say that it isn’t funny, because it is, in fact, far funnier than any love story you are likely to see any time soon. I guess the biggest problem for a mature theatergoer like myself is that I feel guilty laughing at such potty humor—but I admit, I did laugh.
Exception #2: No Strings Attached is a fairly well cast love story. I’m guessing the script attracted Kutcher and Portman to this genre, and they do an admirable job delivering punch lines and screwing each other silly.
Indeed, Kutcher and Portman have chemistry, one of the reasons (besides the references to dicks and vaginas) that No Strings Attached doesn’t completely fall apart. Portman proves she can traverse genres with ease, although I’m not entirely sure this is one she wants to get tied to. As for Kutcher, well, this is what he does, and while his roles are old hat by now, it’s likely he’ll never tire of the funny oaf routine. In addition, Kevin Kline plays Adam’s famous, actor father, whose pot-smoking, womanizing antics balance nicely with the dick and vagina jokes. Jake M. Johnson, Greta Gerwig and yes, Ludacris, round out the cast as Adam and Emma’s buddy system, a team that plays well off of each other.
No Strings Attached looks to be the new phase in love stories; it’s got the boring predictability of Leap Year, with the sensibility of Knocked Up and Superbad. It’s easy to enjoy a film like this, but at the same time, it’s difficult not to feel as if you’ve seen it too many times. It’s like seeing American Pie and thinking, “Wow, this is so hilarious,” but then wondering two years later how you could have been suckered into watching it. Perhaps casting actors like Portman, Krutcher, and company, while trading in the vulgarity for a little Woody Allen-esque humor, will give these films legs. It’s not that I don’t like dick jokes and references to vaginas, but there is only so far you can take it. Or maybe I’m just getting old.