Features

Large cast, but little substance

“He’s Just Not That Into You” isn’t exactly a romantic comedy.

Yes, the characters work themselves into the same sorts of tizzies over falling in and out of love – or finding love in the first place – but mixed in with the fizziness is an unexpected seriousness.

All those A-listers in the ensemble cast (Jennifer Aniston! Scarlett Johansson!) are smiling in the movie’s posters, but don’t let that fool you. Some heavy stuff falls upon their pretty heads.

But while it’s admirable that the film from director Ken Kwapis (“The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”) tries to shake up a typically frivolous formula, too many other elements undermine his intentions.

Based on the best-selling advice book by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, the script from Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (“Never Been Kissed”) follows nine intertwined characters struggling to make sense of their love lives.

The women, especially Ginnifer Goodwin’s hopeless romantic, Gigi, tend to be needy and demanding; the men, like Bradley Cooper’s cheating Ben, are often caddish and evasive.

And their stories are broken up with title cards taken from the source material’s chapters (“… if he’s not calling you,” for example), that make “He’s Just Not That Into You” feel like episodic television rather than a cohesive whole.

That may be fitting, since the title comes from a line uttered on “Sex and the City,” for which Behrendt and Tuccillo were writers.

We begin with Gigi obsessing over the blind date she just had with Baltimore real-estate agent Conor (Kevin Connolly). Winsome and attractive as she is, she’s also annoyingly desperate.

Thankfully, Conor’s restaurant-manager pal Alex (Justin Long) is there to strip her of her girlish illusions. He provides advice that’s hilarious in its harshness: “Maybe he just didn’t call because he has no interest in seeing you again.”

Long brings a charisma to this cruelty, and his scenes with the perky Goodwin provide the film with refreshing honesty.

From there, everything else is a downer. Gigi’s co-worker, Beth (Aniston), has been living with boyfriend Neil (Ben Affleck) for seven years, but he’s never asked her to marry him, and that’s beginning to wear on her.

Their other colleague, Janine (Jennifer Connelly in a meaty performance), is married to her college sweetheart (Cooper), who’s having an affair with yoga instructor Anna (Johansson in full va-va-voom mode).

Drew Barrymore, also an executive producer on the film, has a supporting role as the sales rep who helped place Conor’s ad in the local gay newspaper. She laments the way technology has actually made dating harder, but her observations aren’t particularly funny or insightful.

After more than two hours, what we’re left with feels like a Robert Altman movie on Botox. It has some real substance and heft but also a bit too much gloss.

‘Push’

Dakota Fanning plays her first-ever drunk scene in “Push,” a new comic-book-inspired thriller about mind-readers and mind-benders, people with telekinetic powers given to them by the government in some demented effort to create walking, talking human weapons.

Fanning plays Cassie, a 13-year-old “watcher,” somebody who can see the future and sketch it out on her note pad.

Her mom once told her that she’d see “clearer” if she had a few belts. So Cassie does, and Fanning takes another giant stagger toward leaving her child-actress screen persona behind.

Cassie shows up at the Hong Kong door of a “mover” played by Chris Evans. He’s been expecting her. His dad, a watcher, told him to look for her 10 years ago.

And here she is, perky, punky and ready to bring down “The Division,” the agency that created all these “special people” such as “sniffs” (who can smell every place you’ve used an object, and thus track you), “bleeders” (who scream until you bleed), “shifters,” “wipes” and so on.

Then, there are the “pushers,” who can shove a thought into your head, convince you to kill yourself or alter your memory.

One of them, Kira (Camilla Belle), has escaped. And she’s bringing a magic syringe to Hong Kong, where people will die in an effort to shape the future that many of them already have seen.

The race is on to get to Kira and the syringe full of telekinesis juice that will turn those who take it (and survive) into super weapons.

“Special” Chinese agents, including the lollipop-sucking watcher “pop” girl, are on the trail. But so is The Division, led by an evil-eyed Djimon Hounsou.

Fanning is properly plucky, Evans makes a passable if uncompelling action hero, Hounsou isn’t really menacing enough to pull off the villain part and Belle is all bangs and blandness.

Director Paul McGuigan (“Lucky Number Slevin”) wastes a lot of talented people here. Maggie Siff (“Mad Men”), Ming Na (“The Joy Luck Club”), Cliff Curtis (“Sunshine”) and others play “special” people with other talents and gamble on roles that might have some sort of staying power in the unlikely event this becomes a franchise.

Still, the telekinetic gunfights are amusing (guns floating in the air) for those who go for that sort of thing.

By Roger Moore

The Orlando Sentinel

‘The Pink Panther 2’

Someday, we’ll stroll through the Steve Martin Wing of The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, admiring his collection, and we’ll appreciate what he had to do to pay for his Picassos, Seurats and Edward Hoppers.

Until then, we endure such films as “Cheaper by the Dozen” and “Pink Panther” with a grimace, remembering the comic he once was.

“The Pink Panther 2,” his latest, is somewhat less of a desecration of the memory of Peter Sellers than Martin’s first outing as the bumbling French detective.

This family-friendly farce plays lighter than that, even if Martin still hasn’t bothered to learn a faux French accent and editing doesn’t hide that even the simplest stunts are now done by fellows in snow-white wigs.

The Magna Carta, the Shroud of Turin and a famous Japanese sword have been stolen by The Tornado. An international “dream team” – English (Alfred Molina), Italian (Andy Garcia), Japanese (Yuki Matsuzaki) and Indian (Aishwarya Rai) – has been assembled to crack the case.

They want the world’s “greatest detective” on board. Can his boss (John Cleese) spare Clouseau from parking duty? Of course he can, even though he knows the only smart thing about the man is his Smart Car.

No sooner than Clouseau and Ponton (Jean Reno) are on the case than the Pink Panther diamond is stolen – again.

Lily Tomlin is among those who took this paid French vacation, playing a human resources officer trying to cure Clouseau of his political correctness.

Dutch director Harald Zwart (“Agent Cody Banks”) gets less out of his star than his stuntmen. Neither actor nor director pick up on what made the character work – he was an egomaniac who suspected his incompetence but was determined to keep up appearances.

Martin lacks Sellers’ dash, his pained “I’ll be found out” double-takes, his mastery of the accent.

But these “Panther” paydays may pay off yet. A Picasso for a “Pink” – that’s the best we can hope for.

By Roger Moore

The Orlando Sentinel

For times and locations, see page 6.


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