The worst reviews to write are for mediocre films. I hate writing them. Movies that are terrific, or uniformly awful? Those are easy to write. But movies that are just dead air, cotton candy, with no solid center to them, it seems hardly worth the effort to write about them. There are aspects of the film that are worth seeing, and then there are parts of the film that bring it down. It's all a wave, and in the end you leave feeling pretty much the same as when you started.
CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE, when it works, is genuinely funny and even a little heartwarming, but much of my good will towards the film evaporated on the way home. The film is full of what I'd call "first world problems", with characters whose inner and outer struggles don't seem to carry much weight in these troubled times. It's about a marriage ending, and a new relationship beginning, and how those two things collide and intersect makes up much of the plot of the film. But the film is also full of plot contrivances that simply don't happen in the real world, and one too many coincidences sink the film. I'm not one of these "turn off the brain" types when watching a movie, and as more unlikely scenarios popped up on screen, it became more difficult to relate to the characters and the situations. Much of CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE is funny, but it's not honest where it counts.
Cal (Steve Carell) and Emily (Julianne Moore) have had 25 years of marriage together, and three children. But Emily's having a personal crisis and wants out of the marriage, and Cal complies. As Cal is forced back into the single life, Emily begins an on-and-off-again relationship with a co-worker (Kevin Bacon). Ladies' man Jacob (Ryan Gosling) takes pity on Cal after seeing Cal mope in a club and decides to "Miyagi" Cal on the dating game. Hanna (Emma Stone) is just about to pass the bar, but her boyfriend (Josh Groban) isn't ready to commit to a long term relationship. But she does hold some interest in seeing this guy, Jacob, who she met, even though he is something of a jerk. Jacob is very attracted to her; perhaps there's something about her that would make him want to quit his single lifestyle. And then there's Cal's son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo) who is drastically affected by Cal and Emily's divorce and is just exploring what love really means for the first time. He has a huge crush on his babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton) but that crush goes unreturned as she's 4 years older than him, and he's only 13. All of these relationships and friendships will come together in the end, and who stays with who, and who doesn't, is for the audience to discover.
The best scenes of the film deal with Carell and Gosling as Gosling tries to teach Carell the ropes of the single life. They have a comedic rhythm together that works. What's not so good are the huge coincidences that seem to drive the plot, and without spoiling, there's one in particular that sets up the third act of the film that set me on edge. It's telegraphed in the film, and I probably should have seen it coming, but I didn't, so it did catch me by surprise, but it's one of those convenient plot twists that wraps everything in a nice bow, and for the casual filmgoer they may enjoy it, but I didn't buy it. One character in particular, Kate (Marisa Tomei, who really is funny in the part) becomes Cal's first real date after the separation, and she's established as an alcoholic in recovery, but she seemingly goes to bars to meet guys, which didn't make much sense.
Julianne Moore seems to pay far more for her transgressions than Steve Carell does for his - it's the same old double standard that we see all the time in films like this. The girl sleeps around once and she's a whore. The guy sleeps around a ton of times and he's a stud. Granted, the way Carell transforms from lonely ex-husband to barhopping ladies' man is funny, but upon reflection he doesn't pay for his actions. The scene where Cal finds out what Kate does for a living is hilarious, but again, it's humor based on one of those plot coincidences that happen all the time in sitcoms but never in real life. Much of CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE feels like television, but not the good kind.
Glenn Ficarra and John Requa have done great work before with I LOVE YOU, PHILIP MORRIS, and they can't take much of the blame, as they manage to get good performances from everyone across the board. No, it's Dan Fogelman's script that lets this film down. This is a romantic comedy, so some liberties must be taken, but each situation becomes more unbelievable as the film progresses, and by the end of the movie I didn't buy what the film was selling. It's got a sweet heart to it, and CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE means well, but too many breaches in logic make the film a definite middle-of-the-road movie for me.