Movie Review: “How to Be Single”

single1Dakota Johnson happily slinks into the shadow of Rebel Wilson for “How to be Single,” a raunchy romantic comedy romp that comes up just short on all of those labels.

As in not raunchy enough, not remotely romantic, plenty funny, but at almost two hours, never quite achieving “romp.”

And just in time for Valentine’s Day, too!

It’s another riff on the NYC single’s scene, a movie confident enough in its own chops to rip on earlier takes on the single life.

Alice (Johnson) for instance, has decided that her college beau (Nicholas Braun) is great, but that they should see other people.  She does, but she’s shocked when he does as well.

Co-worker and life-of-the-party Robin (Wilson) sets her straight.

“There’s no such thing as “We’re ON A BREAK,’ Season Three Ross!”

Robin’s not letting Alice and Meg, Alice’s married-to-her-job OB-GYN older sister (Leslie Mann) spoil their singlehood by getting “all hopped up on ‘Sex and the City’ and ‘Bridget Jones.'” They’re going out there. With Robin. And stirring the pot. Nightly.

“I once slept with an albino!”

Johnson’s Alice is romantic and unworldly enough to almost fall for an assortment of guys — a widower played by the first-ever charming member of the Wayans clan, Damon Wayons Jr., and the “I’m not the one” bartender EVERY woman hooks up with (Anders Holm). She’s too beautiful to be the near-wallflower she’s supposed to be, hiding under her bangs. But there’s a little of mom Melanie Griffith’s winsome sex kitten about her.

Alison Brie has a cute smaller role as the Anti-Robin, a young woman so ready to mate that she scares off most men (Ken, the bartender among them) and is trying every online dating trick in the book.

Wilson blows through her scenes — dancing and drinking in clubs, hurling herself onto cabs — with girth-ignoring gusto. She’ll let you hear and see (not really) things you won’t be able to un-see. Ever.

single2

The menfolk are thinly sketched “types.

But the heart of the script is the “doesn’t need a man” Meg. Leslie Mann’s scenes at Meg’s practice, where she makes a big show of being immune to the charms of the babies she’s delivering and coddling, crackle with longing. She’s always been a lot more than Judd Apatow’s wife, and criminally under-employed.

The whole affair is too cluttered to clip along, laugh to laugh, love to love. Director Christian Ditter (“Love, Rosie”) had too many characters to serve to give anybody room to breathe.

“How to Be Single” staggers through abrupt shifts in character and tone and never once finds a big romantic moment. Couples lining up for this as a Valentine’s date will find plenty of laughs, and maybe a sense of relief that they’re not “single” and in NYC.

It seems shiny and fun, until you remember Season Three Ross. It’s too much like work, and there’s no such thing as “on a break.”

2half-star6

MPAA Rating: R for sexual content and strong language throughout

Cast: Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Leslie Mann, Damon Wayans Jr., Jake Lacy, Nicholas Braun, Anders Holm
Credits: Directed by Christian Ditter, script by Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein and Dana Fox, based on a Lucy Tuccillo book. A Warner Brothers release.

Running time: 1:50

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