Julie Delpy's genial 2007 directorial effort "2 Days in Paris" worked well enough; it delivered a small, uncomplicated romantic comedy and never left that safety zone. Her next film, "2 Days in New York," repeats the same formula so specifically that it's practically the same movie imported to a new setting. Shifting her love interest from Adam Goldberg to Chris Rock and moving the setting to Manhattan, "2 Days in New York" unfolds like a carefree metropolitan remix of the first installment. Since Delpy brings the same cheery vibes and her cast plays along, the familiarity is mostly welcome.
Delpy's father, Albert Delpy, returns to play a fictionalized version of himself (both of her parents were featured in the original). This time, he shows up at the spacious apartment where his daughter Marion (Delpy) and her boyfriend Mingus (Rock) live with two children from earlier relationships. And he's not alone: Marion's horny sister Rose (Alexia Landeau) and her smarmy, vaguely racist and perpetually stoned boyfriend Manu (Alex Nahon, who wrote the screenplay with Delpy) tag along, instantly burdening the low-stress couple with the responsibility of keeping their wily visitors content.
Delpy explores this scenario with a light touch that borders on sitcom formula, but also toys with her characters' sophistication in an obvious imitation of Woody Allen discourse. Their enlightened state comes across with a series of superficial details: The couple met at the Village Voice, where they both contribute; Mingus hosts a liberal talk show and Marion spends her days formulating high-concept photography projects and other far-reaching creative endeavors. While she frets over yoga class and considers an art project where she sells her soul, Mingus kills time by addressing a cardboard cutout of Barack Obama in his home office. And so on.
Their settled existence amusingly ricochets off Marion's blithe family, particularly her giddy father and irascible sibling, whose behavior regularly leads to whiny showdowns. "Do you want to visit New York or fight all day?" Marion asks them. As it turns out, the two options aren't mutually exclusive.
"2 Days in New York" intermittently drags without becoming an outright bore. Mingus' cardboard Obama speeches grow tiring after the first time out, as do various sketch-like issues that arise over the course the family visit. The only serious misstep arrives late in the third act with a strange tangent involving Marion's attempt to reclaim her soul from Vincent Gallo (don't ask), a random twist that distracts from the movie's central appeal.
Other than that, "2 Days in New York" suffers from a disconnect between occasionally sophomoric humor and a more refined intellectualism. While Deply includes high-minded dialogue about psychoanalyst Francoise Dolto and Arthur Rimbaud, the screenplay regularly wastes screen time with inferior jokes about diaper changing and an electric toothbrush possibly used as a dildo. The last thing a movie this low key needs is a reason to dumb itself down.
Even when it stumbles, however, "2 Days in New York" retains an airy vibe, reflecting its dogged intention of charming its viewers. Delpy can't shake the disposable nature of her storytelling, mainly because of the ongoing sense that we've been through this before. But seeing as "2 Days in Paris" never felt especially irksome, this affable sequel deserves the same insouciant shrug.
Criticwire grade: B
HOW WILL IT PLAY? Despite Rock's star power, "2 Days in New York" is too small and forgettable to gain much traction, but could perform well in limited release with a boost from solid word of mouth. A midsize distributor (such as Samuel Goldwyn Films, which released "2 Days in Paris," or IFC Films) seems like a safe bet.