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He's Just Not That Into You DVD Review

He's Just Not That Into You movie poster He's Just Not That Into You

Theatrical Release: February 6, 2009 / Running Time: 129 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Ken Kwapis / Writers: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein (screenplay), Greg Behrendt, Liz Tuccillo (book)

Cast: Ben Affleck (Neil Jones), Jennifer Aniston (Beth Bartlett), Drew Barrymore (Mary Harris), Jennifer Connelly (Janine Gunders), Kevin Connolly (Conor Barry), Bradley Cooper (Ben Gunders), Ginnifer Goodwin (Gigi Haim), Scarlett Johansson (Anna Taylor), Kris Kristofferson (Ken Murphy), Justin Long (Alex), Wilson Cruz (Nathan), Hedy Burress (Laura), Sasha Alexander (Catherine), Leonardo Nam (Joshua), Busy Philipps (Kelli Ann), Mike Beaver (Cousin Jay), John Ross Bowie (Dan the Wiccan), Luis Guzmán (Javier - uncredited)

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Casts full of famous actors assemble all the time for movies. Ambitious historical dramas, animated films, ensemble capers, epic fantasies... all have yielded their fair share of star-studded casts. One genre that's generally avoided loading up on talent is the romantic comedy. These traditionally low-budget films usually only need a guy, a girl, and another guy and/or girl with which to provide obstacles, love triangles, and third-party commentary.

The makers of He's Just Not That Into You avoided tradition, though. Timed to open right around Valentine's Day 2009, the film boasted a number of the most famous actresses working today.
Among the household names seen here are Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly, and Scarlett Johansson. In the effort to apparently craft the ultimate chick flick, the men must match the women in number. So we also get some recognizable actors in the way of Ben Affleck, youthful-looking Mac commercial guy Justin Long, "Entourage" lead Kevin Connolly, and slowly-up-and-coming Bradley Cooper.

He's Just Not is based on the best-selling 2004 self-improvement book of the same name, penned by "Sex and the City" consultant Greg Behrendt and story editor Liz Tuccillo and inspired by an episode of their HBO series. How do you turn a self-help book into a romantic comedy? By taking the ideas and divvying them up among the ensemble of couples whose worlds and plights are very much intertwined. Our entrance point appears to be Gigi Haim (Ginnifer Goodwin, "Big Love"), who supplies some limited narration. Unlucky in love and desperate beyond belief, Gigi is the character most in need of the title's tough love lesson.

Closest to a protagonist, Gigi Haim (Ginnifer Goodwin) is always happy to share her pathetic dating experiences with her spice company colleagues. Though they're happy together, Neil (Ben Affleck) doesn't want to marry Beth (Jennifer Aniston), meaning he's just not that into her and therefore banished to this yacht.

Gigi finds early disappointment when real estate agent Conor Barry (Kevin Connolly) never calls her after a date. Conor's got his eyes on Anna (Scarlett Johansson), a yoga instructor and aspiring musician. But their comradeship stalls when Anna meets Ben (Bradley Cooper), a clearly smitten but married man who may be able to help her launch a singing career. Beth (Jennifer Aniston) and Neil (Ben Affleck) would appear to have a sturdy relationship of seven years, but when he won't turn it into a marriage, they split up.

Also in the mix are two characters who believe they've got the realities of coupling figured out. Bar owner Alex (Justin Long) decodes the signs and meanings of male behavior for Gigi, deflating her false hopes. Janine (Jennifer Connelly) does the same in less blunt ways. Meanwhile, fully immersed in her ongoing home renovations, Janine has lingering suspicions her husband is lying to her about not smoking. Finally, in what feels like the smallest lead role, is optimistic ad sales agent Mary (Drew Barrymore), who is trying to make use of today's technologies to land a man. She has some coaching from a trio of gay male friends. As you'd probably expect of what will surely rank among this year's most mainstream romcoms, homosexual characters are kept in the periphery, repeatedly acknowledged but never given any serious thought.

I'm not someone to take films to task for representations, but this design is indicative of a bigger problem found in He's Just Not That Into You, namely that this is lowest common denominator moviemaking. I've found that the majority of romantic comedies can be charged as such, and often this trait can be overlooked. What offends is that this one believes it has some terrific insight and its finger on the pulse of today's society. This is evident from the "Frasier"-esque intertitles and scattered When Harry Met Sally-type direct camera addresses from dumped singles. The only viewers likely to share the movie's belief in its ideas are serial daters and, to narrow that class down even more, women who have been rejected and mistreated.

A Home Depot is the site of both a confession and a denial from Ben (Bradley Cooper) to wife Janine (Jennifer Connelly). To make some sense of all this social networking technology, sparsely-seen Mary (Drew Barrymore) turns to her trio of gay co-worker/friends (Wilson Cruz, Leonardo Nam, and Rod Keller).

Much of what's wrong with He's Just Not seems fundamental and can almost certainly be traced back to the source text that I haven't read. The movie looks to empower women by painting men as bastards
who can't clearly dole out rejection, won't fully commit, can't resist temptation, and are unable to see the perfectly good thing in front of them. On the other hand, the film's females are depicted as neurotic and sometimes quite needy, but also smart, aware, and reasonable (just not enough to avoid such emotional torment). There's a female homewrecker and one sensitive good guy, but these are the exceptions to the movie's rules, at least until the mostly predictable conclusions and redemptions are reached.

I found just about every moment of the movie to be painful on some level and most of the discomfort can be traced to the skewed world view of gender and shallow caricatures on display. That the director, one of the two authors, and one of the two screenwriters are male seems to have had no bearing on the man-bashing presented here. What's odd is that this framing seeks to console those still hurting from dating woes but it does so at the cost of entertainment. Richard Curtis' Love Actually, which strikes me as the British counterpart to this film, played out as an ongoing series of happy endings, the kind every romantic comedy eventually provides. In contrast, He's Just Not unfolds with a series of setbacks, obstacles, and frustrations. The latter palette may be closer to reality, but then real world concerns and issues are completely out of sight here. And needless to say, it is Curtis' film that pleases crowds, not this one.

For that matter, He's Just Not is supposed to be a romantic comedy, but it seems to fulfill neither requisite of that classification. As far as romance, there is no heart, only words. Those words aren't funny. I believe I only laughed once and it was at the film's expense, for thinking that Some Kind of Wonderful shorthand and an Eric Stoltz reference would be appreciated by many in the target audience. I can see how the humor about awkward voicemails and social networking sites could be deemed witty in print. When actually uttered, though, even actors with comedic chops can't make them fly.

Despite all that bothered me about this movie, it can't be considered a dud financially. The film opened and held strong at the box office, having earned nearly $94 million domestically and almost as much overseas. The numbers can be justified in two ways. One theory: positioning your movie as the obvious date night choice around Valentine's Day with enough famous actors will ensure success. The alternative: people actually like this. I sure hope it's the former because the thought of this film being discovered years and years from now as being reflective of society in my lifetime keeps the pain flowing.

Buy He's Just Not That Into You on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen,
1.33:1 Reformatted Fullscreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: June 2, 2009
Double-sided single-layered disc (DVD-10)
Suggested Retail Price: $28.98
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray Disc and On Demand

VIDEO and AUDIO

Warner's double-sided DVD lets consumers choose to watch He's Just Not That Into You in its 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio or compromised to fill screens of the increasingly non-standard 4:3 dimensions. I chose the former and found little that capitalized on the wider frame. (Still, sampling the fullscreen version reveals some unsightly cropping, panning and scanning.) The movie makes close to no impression visually, consisting largely of routinely-cut conversations and only rarely lingering on a nicely-furnished home setting. I noticed absolutely no problems with the picture, which is bright, sharp, and clean. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack also prompts minimal response. The mix is front-heavy and dialogue-driven. At least the exhaustive list of prerecorded music sampled is a touch more diverse and less cool-now pop than most of its romcom contemporaries.

Mary's (Scarlett Johansson) complicated relationship with her mother (a cut Theresa Russell) comes into light in the "He's Just Not That Into You" deleted scenes. Dealt a paucity of bonus features, we bring you this additional movie still. Just moments away from some hot adultery, Mary (Scarlett Johansson) and Ben (Bradley Cooper) are interrupted by a knock on his office door.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

In lieu of a Special Features menu, there is a Deleted Scenes menu, holding the only supplement standard DVD consumers get. The five cuts (13:50) are offered with optional audio commentary by director Ken Kwapis that explains their losses but runs out of steam.
Netflix, Inc.
Two of the scenes show us Anna's relationship with her mother (otherwise absent Theresa Russell). We also get to see Anna singing for an audience, Gigi's dull date with Bill (Peter O'Meara), and Conor meet Mary on a gay pride parade float.

Three additional bonuses are exclusive to the concurrent Blu-ray Disc, as are unspecified BD-Live features.

Both sides of this disc launch with promos for Blu-ray, Inkheart, and 17 Again and one against smoking.

The static menus run with the same pink, white, and smiles-in-varying-rectangles motif as the cover. A score excerpt accompanies the main screen.

Two single-sided inserts are housed inside the case, one holding a unique code for downloading a digital copy of the film (for a cost of $1.99) and the other advertising the soundtrack. The keepcase itself joins the growing class of environmentally-minded packaging, with gaping cut-out holes accounting for a reduction in the amount of plastic used. (Of course, Warner and New Line's much-maligned snapper cases used far less.)

Responsible for a blind date mix-up, bartender Alex (Justin Long) is stuck accompanying Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin) himself. Or so he says. Kevin Connolly plays one of the four leading men in the movie's mix. No, he's not on the phone with Ari Gold.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

He's Just Not That Into You is an early but promising candidate for ranking among my least favorite movies of 2009. Romantic comedies are ordinarily predictable, inane, and harmless, but in striving to be more ambitious and relevant, this one falls flatter with its slices-of-life approach only underscoring how shallow and unsympathetic it is. If you're a sucker for the genre, then none of my complaints are likely to dissuade you, but Warner's lightweight, pared-back DVD might keep it from being an instant buy. Otherwise, stay away.

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Related Reviews:
Sex and the City (The Movie) • The Women • Yes Man • Run Fatboy Run • Over Her Dead Body • Fireproof
When Harry Met Sally... • Ghost (Blu-ray) • Wedding Daze • Blind Dating • Mama's Boy • Then She Found Me



The Cast of He's Just Not That Into You:
Jennifer Aniston: Marley & Me | Scarlett Johansson: The Spirit • The Other Boleyn Girl
Jennifer Connelly: Labyrinth • Dark Water | Drew Barrymore: Beverly Hills Chihuahua
Justin Long: Herbie: Fully Loaded • Galaxy Quest (Deluxe Edition) | Kris Kristofferson: The Wendell Baker Story

New & Recent Releases: Paul Blart: Mall Cop • Army Wives: The Complete Second Season • Raising the Bar: The Complete First Season
Directed by Ken Kwapis: License to Wed • Follow That Bird (25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)

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Reviewed June 1, 2009.



Text copyright 2009 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2009 New Line Cinema, Flower Films Productions, and Warner Home Video. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.