| Filmmaker James L. Brooks, 70, has had a glorious career in television and movies. He has won three Oscars and 20 Emmys. His name is associated with "Terms of Endearment," "Broadcast News," "As Good as It Gets," "The Simpsons," "Taxi," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Tracey Ullman Show."
There are a few words missing to complete the question posed by the title in Brooks’ latest cinematic effort. His intention was to address the issue of finding love with the right person in a contemporary setting. Viewers will be conjecturing instead about whether they are sitting through a good or bad movie. This yawn-inducer clearly falls within the latter category.
Lisa Jorgensen (Reese Witherspoon from "Walk the Line," "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Legally Blonde"), age 31, has spent her whole life pursuing her passion of athletic competition. She has been the heartbeat of the United States national softball team for the past 12 years. Her world crumbles when she learns she has been cut from the 2011 roster.
She stumbles uncertainly back into regular life and falls into an intimate relationship with Matty Reynolds (Owen Wilson from "Wedding Crashers," Meet the Parents" and "Marley & Me"), a pitcher for the Washington Nationals possessing a 94-mph fastball and making $14 million per year.
They have amazing sex, but have little in common other than their blonde hair, physically fine-tuned bodies and athletic backgrounds. Matty is a self-centered narcissist and he treats women like they are playthings manufactured for his enjoyment.
Even though she moves in with Matty, Lisa realizes that this fun fling has no long-term possibilities. She goes to a psychiatrist (Emmy-winner Tony Shalhoub from "Monk" in a cameo appearance) and he gives her the best advice: "Figure out what you want (in life) and learn how to ask for it."
George Madison (Shawnee Mission West graduate and former KU student Paul Rudd from "Dinner for Schmucks," "Knocked Up" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin") is a straight-arrow businessman running a company founded by his father, Charles (Jack Nicholson). He went to business school with the brother of one of Lisa’s teammates. He sounds like a weirdo when he calls Lisa for the first time out of the blue. He tells her that he is not going to ask her out.
Things quickly spin out of control for George when he gets a subpoena to appear in federal court on charges of security fraud. His unmarried pregnant assistant, Annie (Kathryn Hahn from "The Holiday" and "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy") tells him to call a girl up for a distraction to take his mind off things. He calls Lisa again and this time asks her out.
They go on a blind date and eat an early-bird dinner in complete silence. Nothing comes of it until an unlikely coincidence occurs that seems totally contrived. As dumb luck would have it, Charles and Matty live on different floors in the same pricey high-rise apartment building. They become friends, and the movie is pretty predictable from this point.
Brooks seems to have lost touch with reality and has clearly run out of ideas. The boring story does a poor job of creating a romantic triangle. It also fails as a comedy, generating few laughs.
The screenplay would have been worked better on the stage since the scenes fit the format of separate acts in a play. The movie is void of any effervescence and doesn’t have the forward momentum that holds your interest. Witherspoon is a real cutie who lights up the room with her mere presence, but is woefully miscast as a female jock. Rudd tries to inject some humor. Witherspoon and Rudd deserve to be together in a better movie. Wilson just wants to have fun and could play this role in his sleep. Nicholson acts like he is making a guest appearance on a talk show.
The movie was shot in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Those familiar with these cities will recognize landmark sites. The Oscar-winning crew includes cinematographer Janusz Kaminski ("Saving Private Ryan" and "Schindler’s List") and composer Hans Zimmer ("The Lion King," "Gladiator" and "The Dark Knight"). Unfortunately, this dull and listless movie fails to live up to expectations and will be competing for Razzies rather than Academy Awards as one of the worst movies of the year.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"