You will enjoy “What’s Your Number?” only if you’re mentally deficient and/or consider looking at Chris Evans’s V-shaped lower abs for 100 minutes a good use of mental energy (note that these aren’t mutually exclusive). Don’t get us wrong: we can appreciate a mindless romantic comedy–and a nice set of abs–with the cosmo-craving crowd, but we actually need something resembling romance and/or comedy if that’s what we’re promised. And if we want to gape at Evan’s chiseled torso, we’ll just loop the reveal scene from “Captain America” over and over again, thank you very much.
The worst offense of “What’s Your Number?”–other than its painfully illogical script and dizzying, unexplained camera movements that would make Gaspar Noé nauseated–is wasting Anna Faris. Game for anything, Faris has turned unfunny into funny before, making moments in the otherwise awful “Just Friends” and the ‘Scary Movie‘ sequels bearable. Here, even her delivery and timing can’t salvage lines that simply aren’t worth a laugh.
Faris stars as Ally Darling, a young women who gets let go from her job on the same day she reads a Marie Claire article that says her 19 sexual partners (gasp!) is simply too many if she ever expects to get married. Rather than meeting a new man and increasing her number, she’s encouraged by the upcoming marriage of her sister (Ari Graynor) to a former douchebag, to start revisiting her past flames to see if they’ve grown in the time since they slept together.
Ally embarks on her quest with the help of her current douchebag neighbor Colin (Evans). The son of a cop, he helps her track down each ex in exchange for her hiding him in her apartment as he avoids his one-night stands across the hall. This happens exactly twice, but Colin still seems game to help Ally as she stumbles through seeing exes, like newly slim and engaged Donald (Chris Pratt), affable Brit Simon (Martin Freeman), and gay Washingtonian Tom (Anthony Mackie). Initial annoyance inevitably turns into attraction, but will Ally risk upping her number? If you have to ask, then you clearly fit into category 1 above.
In general, romantic comedies aren’t meant to challenge either the genre or the viewers. For fans who rush out to see each release, there’s comfort in knowing what’s coming and that the couple will end up together. Predictability has become one of the hallmarks of the genre, and if that’s a film’s only issue, it’s not fatal. But when a script telegraphs its first move from the initial (nearly naked) shot of Evans and a well-placed towel, and also fails to feature more than a handful of laugh-lines or swoon-inducing romantic interactions, there are larger problems. Here, jokes land softly, getting neither groans nor laughs. Instead there’s an awkward silence, with an occasional embarrassed chuckle on behalf of the screenwriters, the actors and their mothers.
With a director and pair of screenwriters who arrive from television, the film feels like a R-rated version of Lifetime’s lighter fare. It may be the excess of “Bridesmaids,” “The Hangover,” and other raunchfests, but this feels like the tamest R-rated film we’ve seen in years. A couple of uses of the word “vagina” and a shot of side boob do not make a film edgy. Not every film can be “Bridesmaids,” but “What’s Your Number?” looks especially limp and sad with the recent reminder of how funny, smart and genuine a film about single women can be.
Thanks to direction from Mark Mylod (of both U.K. and U.S. versions of “Shameless”) and cinematography from DoP J. Michael Muro (also of “Shameless” as well as “Crash” and “The Last Mimzy”) this is also one of the worst shot major studio films in recent memory. Whether the aforementioned swirling camerawork is an attempt at innovation or simply the result of a lack of talent, it’s ugly and distracting.
Character is also a key issue. “What’s Your Number?” fits into the recent spate of movies for women like “Bride Wars” and “Something Borrowed” where you can barely imagine spending more than 100 minutes with the characters onscreen, much less an evening out for drinks. These aren’t likable people, and not in that fun way that “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and its ilk celebrate. These are people who you’d roll your eyes at and hope to get away from as soon as possible if you encountered them at a bar.
What does work? Fleeting moments between Evans and Faris show that the pair has some chemistry, but Evans seems to have reverted back to being a blandly good-looking, sub-par actor contrary to the leading-man promise he showed in “Captain America.” And the interactions between real-life married couple Faris and “Parks and Recreation” star Chris Pratt are horribly (awesomely) awkward as she stalks him in his new life with his fiancée, as long as you know that they’re actually married. Otherwise, it’s just awkward and not that funny — just like the rest of movie. [D]