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'How Do You Know' is a charming mess

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POSTED: December 24, 2010 11:36 a.m.

It’s show time! Allow me to talk to you for a moment today about James L. Brooks. He was on the production team of “Big,” “Say Anything” and “Jerry Maguire.” He directed “Broadcast News” and “As Good As It Gets.” In fact, he co-wrote those Hollywood gems as well. And “I’ll Do Anything,” a terrific drama from 1994, (which happens to be on my top 20 list of the best films of all time) was written, directed and produced by Brooks.
So what’s his latest project? The film is called “How Do You Know?” It’s a romantic comedy and it’s in theaters now.
In the film, Reese Witherspoon is Lisa, an Olympic softball player whose life and identity are derailed when she is cut from her team. It is during this crisis that she meets two men. Owen Wilson is Matty, a womanizing athlete who seems to fall in love for the very first time with Lisa. He’s completely clueless as to how to be a good boyfriend. But he is trying, which makes him as likeable as a golden retriever puppy, despite his obvious flaws. He meets Lisa first and convinces her to move in with him.
George, on the other hand, played by Paul Rudd, is so obviously the soul mate Lisa deserves, but is going through a major crisis of his own, thanks to his dad, a businessman portrayed by Jack Nicolson. George deals with his bad news by going a little nuts, but he pursues Lisa nonetheless.
This is a tough film to judge. Paul Rudd is a great comedian here. Reese Witherspoon acts her heart out with a maturity and ease she seems to be finding now that her 20s are behind her. Still the movie is clumsy. It sputters like a rocket that looks really cool and makes a lot of noise but totally fails to launch.
Entertainment Weekly says the film “fumbled.” The New York Post called it “a mess.” And USA Today thought it must have started out as a good idea that just “got lost in translation” somehow.
In fact, if I’m honest, Jack Nicolson was utterly wasted and the best thing about my viewing winds up being that I finally got to see a preview of “Water for Elephants.” That one teams Robert Pattinson with Witherspoon. Yay!
Still, I am a fan!
Why? Because it was entertaining. Sometimes that’s all you can ask for. But “How Do You Know?” doesn’t even compare with “As Good As It Gets.” Not even close.

 

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