Ryan Gosling is ripped, randy and risible in Crazy, Stupid, Love," an ensemble romantic farce that has the "serious" actor let his funny flag fly.
Yeah, it's a Steve Carell comedy, sort of the dark, divorcing sequel to Date Night. But Gosling, Emma Stone and Marisa Tomei make this film, from the directing duo who gave us I Love You Phillip Morris, work. Most of the time.
Carell is Cal, a slovenly bore who thinks a polo shirt and sports jacket over rumpled khakis and cross-training shoes is appropriate date-night attire. He has stopped trying. And his wife, Emily (Julianne Moore), has noticed. She dumps him in a crowded restaurant.
Cal shuts down. He's in shock. So Emily fills the void with chatter and confessions. She's slept with someone else. "We haven't been 'us,' not for a long time."
Cal steps out of a moving car just to shut her up.
Hannah (Emma Stone) is a young lawyer-to-be, sitting in a bar as her snarky gal pal (Liza Lapira, hilarious) blasts her with "Your life is so PG-13!"
That's before Jacob (Gosling) slithers across the room and makes his move. "Hannah, you're really wearing that dress like you're doing it a favor."
She's a lawyer? "Permission to approach the bench." Yeah, he's a cliché. But when you buy expensive drinks and let slip that you're "a real tomcat in the sack," well, plainly that gets results. Hannah might say "no" now, but Jacob's not hurting. All through the movie, we see him approach and alternately charm and insult gorgeous women. He always finishes with "Let's get outta here." And Jacob always finishes.
The third set of characters we follow are the weakest. Cal's 13-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) has a crush on the family baby sitter, the gawky 17-year-old Jessica (Analeigh Tipton). That's not going anywhere, despite his declarations of her as his "soul mate." Because Jessica has a crush on Robbie's dad, Cal.
Ewww. It's not as icky as you might fear, but still, ewww. And it's certainly not worth the effort the movie expends trying to make this unconventional love triangle funny, sweet, charming and not creepy.
The best scenes come when Jacob takes pity on fellow barfly Cal and teaches him "the game." He gives Cal a makeover and shows him how to get women's attention, get them to talk about themselves and get them into bed. The first lady Cal has a shot with is the great Marisa Tomei, who amusingly dials it up a few notches here.
Crazy, Stupid, Love has a few quiet moments as we mourn the marriage that's lost. But it follows those serious moments with serious tomfoolery — comical sexual encounters, Jacob's way of slapping Cal to get his attention, the stupid things teenagers do to try to impress a member of the opposite sex. The story loses track of lawyer Hannah for a long stretch, finds only a couple of laughs with Moore and the office romance that busted up her marriage, and stops cold pretty much any time we focus on the teens.
So Crazy, Stupid, Love overreaches. Too many issues are flirted with to be adequately addressed. Too many characters are followed to give everybody his or her due. It has a contrived and farcical climax, and then directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa can't resist staggering into a long anti-climax.
But as a Steve Carell comedy, it works. He plays the victim well and the guy romantically in over his head ever better. Surrounding him with people this funny — Ryan Gosling, who knew? — pays off in big, crude laughs of the kind Carell hasn't delivered since 40-Year-Old-Virgin. Whatever the other cast members saw in this script, Carell stepping into Crazy shows him to be crazy like a fox.