Movie Review: “Indie” at its most insipid — “Dating & New York”

If you’ve ever switched on a television, you probably figure everything that can be done with the idea of a “New York romance” has already been done. And thanks to “When Harry Met Sally,” Woody Allen, “She’s Gotta Have It,” “Friends,” “Seinfeld” and “Living Single,” you’d be right.

Or maybe the genre hasn’t been beaten to death. It’s just that everybody coming along now has been so exposed to all the earlier rom-coms that finding “fresh” is nigh on impossible.

“Dating & New York” is another variation of the “Friends with Benefits” school. We’re cute together, we get along, why not try “all the benefits of a relationship without the miserable torture of actually being in one.”

Sure, never seen THAT before. But if the script is witty and poignantly romantic and the leads engaging and fun to hang with and enough “new” New York slang, locations and metrosexual practices are thrown in, it can be perfectly watchable, right?

Right. Except “Dating & New York” misses a few items on that checklist. Most of them, in fact, including the most important. The “romance,” which pairs up perky but bland Francesca Reale (“Stranger Things” with comically bloodless Jaboukie Young-White (“Set It Up”), isn’t romantic in the least. Going for a Hallmark PG (How they rated this inoffensive pablum PG-13 is a mystery) just underscores how serious writer-director Jonah Feingold was about making this the least sexy New York romance since we figured out what a creep Woody Allen actually is.

And as insipid and formulaic as it plays, adding cloying, tin-eared voice-over narration by Jerry Ferrara (“Entourage”) is like a pork rind topping for your fat-free yogurt cone.

Wendy and Milo meet via app, hook up and stumble into each other again after an accidental ghosting. Their friends — Catherine Cohen is Jessie, Wendy’s BFF, Brian Muller is Hank, Milo’s wingman — meet each other at the same time.

So we have that “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” set-up, with the secondary couple coupling up and advising the delusional lead couple through their “relationship contract” arrangement.

Wendy offers that she’ll be comfort food companionship, “like that episode of ‘The Office’ you know line by line. You know what to expect.”

So do we.

Wendy and Milo will dine out, hang out and hook up, and occasionally counsel each other through “dates” outside their “arrangement.” No tears, no ghosting, no hard feelings. And they won’t be what every single New York without a dog fears the most — “alone.”

If you’ve ever seen any of the sitcoms listed above, or “How I Met Your Mother” or “Living Single,” you know where this is going and can guess every single step taken in that journey.

Narrator Ferrara plays Cole, a doorman and “voice of reason” who asks the obvious — “What happens when one of you ‘catches feelings?'”

A couple of bit characters come closest to landing a laugh. None of the leads do.

The script is social media savvy, making tepid jokes about the “commitment” difference between a couple selfie “in your story” or on “your grid” on Instagram.

There’s got to be a women are “playing chess, we’re playing Nintendo 64” crack, an “only in New York” observation or three, a “We need to talk” moment.

But as helpful as it is to know that Tompkins Square Park is “New York’s break-up hot spot,” and the difference between a “boug-dega” and a “BO-dega,” that’s not enough to warrant the 90 minute teeth-grind that is the instantly-dated “Dating & New York.”

Rating: PG-13 “for sexual material and brief language,” but really much closer to PG.

Cast: Francesca Reale, Jaboukie Young-White, Brian Muller Catherine Cohen and Jerry Ferrara.

Credits: Scripted and directed by Jonah Feingold. An IFC release.

Running time: 1:31

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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