Monday, October 31, 2011

Friends with Benefits: Movie Review

Insulting romantic comedies, its fans, and everything else.

The thing about ‘Friends with Benefits” is that you have, in fact, seen it before. Not in the generic way the film implies that all romantic comedies are the same. But this exact movie was released earlier this year with the title “No Strings Attached”. And what’s worse is that vapid, uninspired, Hollywood-love-fest original is actually better.2011

Directed by: Will Gluck

Screenplay by: Keith Merryman, David A. Newman, Will Gluck and Harley Peyton

Starring: Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake

Unashamedly, I admit that I like romantic comedies. I do get very upset when Hollywood makes stupid ones that I don’t like it, but I still watch them. The problems here stem from the fact that “Friends with Benefits” is a romantic comedy but thinks that it isn’t. One of the jokes that lasts the entire run-time of the movie is that romantic comedies suck and the people who watch them are fundamentally stupid. I don’t like being insulted and I especially don’t like being insulted by something that is trying to survive on put-downs and pretending to be better than the very genre they belong to.

There is a fake romantic comedy that plays during this movie, usually serving as fodder for insults, and allows the film to point out everything that is wrong with it. I don’t think the filmmakers are so daft to not realize that they are doing the exact same things, but I do think they expected their audience to not pick up on it.

Recently Jason Segel has been doing the rounds promoting his new Muppets movie. One of the points he likes making is that the humour is pure and innocent; that the jokes don’t insult or put-down anyone or anything. I like Segel as much as the next person, but it astounds me that he could be so hypocritical that just three months earlier he appeared in a movie where every joke insulted somebody or something.

And I do mean every joke. We start with John Mayer insults and the obligatory Katherine Heigl jokes, move on to standard romantic comedy insults, then come back with some out-of-place jokes making fun of the Hudson River-landing pilot, and on the way back to more romantic comedy insults, shoot off some remarks about Kriss Kross, ‘90s pop bands, and of course, homosexuals. And I likely forgot some.

Contrary to the current popular stance, I like Justin Timberlake. He has been in a lot of movies recently, and he’s usually one of the best things in them. He also has no problem insulting himself. Surprisingly, the movie never took that path.

If for some reason, you’re still watching, beware that “Friends with Benefits” probably has the highest product placement total in recent history. There’s a reason Timberlake’s character is a marketing exec at GQ – if they didn’t make enough money at the box office, they would have off of their sponsors.

To be clear, “Friends with Benefits” is a romantic comedy. Girl is emotionally damaged, boy is emotionally unavailable. Girl falls for boy, boy falls for girl, but let’s see how long before they both give in. If you don’t like romantic comedies, then you won’t like this. If you do like romantic comedies, then the filmmakers think you have a worthless opinion and you won’t like it anyways. It is odd how that works out.