'She's Out of My League' a Sweetly Smutty Rom-Com
James Rocchi, Special to MSN Movies
By mixing the sweetness of "Say Anything" with the silliness of "There's Something About Mary," "She's Out of My League" works as well as it does thanks to a real sense of heart and a killer ensemble. After a raft of romantic comedies based on deceptions, misunderstandings and other forced wackiness, Sean Anders and John Morris (of "Sex Drive" and the upcoming "Hot Tub Time Machine") have crafted a film about slightly more realistic factors: self-doubt, self-confidence and self-sabotage.
Kirk (Jay Baruchel) is an underachieving TSA man in Pittsburgh, pining for a long-gone girlfriend (Lindsay Sloane) who took his heart but won't leave his life. Molly (Alice Eve) is a party planner and stunner who leaves her iPhone at security one day and is impressed by Kirk's helpful courtliness, as well as the fact that he seems like a fairly safe bet. Kirk can't believe his good fortune, and neither can his friends: callow charmer Jack (Mike Vogel), bizarre buffoon Stainer (T.J. Miller) and married milquetoast Devon (Nate Torrence).
And if two things make "She's Out of My League" not merely tolerable but enjoyable, they'd be the iron-strong supporting ensemble, from Miller's wild-man antics to Torrence's affection for Disney animation to Krysten Ritter's acid snap as Molly's doubtful best friend. The second thing that redeems "She's Out Of My League" is that Molly, while being, in the vulgar parlance of our time a slammin' hottie and "a hard 10," as Kirk's friends keep reminding him, is also written as a person (hopes, dreams, a past and so on). Eve is not simply asked to show up and be a well-shaped mammal (although she executes that superbly), but, instead, to actually act.
Many will dismiss "She's Out of My League" as faux Judd Apatow (Faux-patow?), but if that means ex-commercial and TV director Jim Field Smith is trying for the mix of understanding heart and foul mouth that characterize "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up," I'll take that over the maudlin mush of "Valentine's Day" or the hateful and warped woman-hating of "The Ugly Truth." Yes, "She's Out of My League" has a comedy scene with a woman, an overexcited man and a dog that does not merely visit the territory of tastelessness but actually sets up a tent and stays a while. At the same time, it has the woman and the man actually talk about that moment later, insecurities and offended principles hashed out between two people through talking. It may have a portly, long-married sad-sack schlub (Torrence) among the supporting friends, but it also demonstrates that he's the character who has his head screwed on the closest thing to "right" in the whole cast and lets him steal every scene he's in.
And while the movie includes several romantic-comedy clichés (the climactic race to the airport, for one example), it's also smart enough to put gentle spins on these moments, like the challenges of airport agents and the frustrations of airport security.
Eve has a wicked sense of comedic timing. Baruchel's herky-jerky flailing and insecure physical tics make Jeff Goldblum look like a Rodin sculpture. Miller invests the "jerk best pal" character with not only good comedy delivery, but also with a real sense of humanity. And the entire film, while hardly a comedy for the ages, manages to get a few laughs and achieve its modest, time-passing ambitions with a certain amount of competence and dignity. "She's Out of My League" has charm, comedy and a Hall & Oates cover band. And in the doldrums of March, that's enough to make it a standout against a bleak backdrop.
James Rocchi's writings on film have appeared at Cinematical.com, Netflix.com, SFGate.com and in Mother Jones magazine. He lives in Los Angeles, where every ending is a twist ending.