"He's Just Not That Into You" isn't exactly a romantic comedy -- at least, not in the most traditional sense. Yes, the characters work themselves into the same sorts of tizzies over falling in and out of love -- or finding love in the first place -- but mixed in with the fizziness is an unexpected seriousness, an attempt at injecting realism and even failure.
All those A-listers in the ensemble cast (Jennifer Aniston! Scarlett Johansson!) are smiling in the movie's posters, but don't let that fool you. Some heavy stuff falls upon their pretty heads. But while it's admirable that the film from director Ken Kwapis ("The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants") tries to shake up a typically frivolous formula, too many other elements undermine his intentions.
Based on the best-selling advice book by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, the script from Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein ("Never Been Kissed") follows nine intertwined characters struggling to make sense of their love lives. The women, especially Ginnifer Goodwin's hopeless romantic Gigi, tend to be needy and demanding; the men, like Bradley Cooper's cheating Ben, are often caddish and evasive.
And their stories are broken up with title cards taken from the source material's chapters (" ... if he's not calling you," for example) that make "He's Just Not That Into You" feel like episodic television rather than a cohesive whole. Maybe that's fitting, since the title comes from a line uttered on "Sex and the City," for which Behrendt and Tuccillo were writers. But it doesn't always work.
We begin with Gigi obsessing over the blind date she just had with Baltimore real-estate agent Conor (Kevin Connolly). Winsome and attractive as she is, she's also annoyingly desperate, to the point where she drives herself and everyone else mad analyzing every "uh" and "er" she exchanges with a guy.
Thankfully, Conor's restaurant-manager pal Alex (Justin Long) is there to strip her of her girlish illusions. Functioning as the voice of the book, Alex gives her advice that's hilarious in its harshness: "Maybe he just didn't call because he has no interest in seeing you again." Long brings a charisma to this cruelty, and his scenes with the perky Goodwin provide the film with refreshing honesty and zest.
Because from there, everything else is a downer. Gigi's co-worker, Beth (Aniston), has been living with boyfriend Neil (Ben Affleck) for seven years, but he's never asked her to marry him, and that's beginning to wear on her. Their other colleague, Janine (Jennifer Connelly in a meaty performance), is married to her college sweetheart (Cooper), who's having an affair with yoga instructor Anna (Johansson in full va-va-voom mode).
Drew Barrymore, also an executive producer on the film, has a supporting role as the sales rep who helped place Conor's ad in the local gay newspaper; with the help of her flamboyant co-workers, she laments the way technology has actually made dating harder, but her observations aren't particularly funny or insightful.
After more than two hours, what we're left with feels like a Robert Altman movie on Botox. It has some real substance and heft, but it also might be a bit too glossy.
"He's Just Not That Into You," a New Line Cinema release, is rated PG-13 for sexual content and brief strong language. Running time: 124 minutes. Two stars out of four.