By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- How to Be Single is a strained romantic comedy, busy but not necessarily productive, about unmarried twentysomethings in the city that never sleeps.
These denizens of New York City's dating pool are unattached potential lovers looking for matches, learning the ropes, and trying to find themselves as well.
But for this movie to work on any level, we'd have to generate a lot more interest in the four main characters than we do.
The manual for How to Generate Emotional Investment was apparently not available to cast or crew.
For openers, the ensemble performing for director Christian Ditter (French for Beginners; The Crocodiles; Love, Rosie) is decidedly uneven.
There are four principals:
Dakota Johnson plays Alice, a paralegal and recent college graduate who has decided she needs a break from her current romantic relationship as she moves to New York City and starts a new job.
Leslie Mann is Meg, Alice's single sister, an obstetrician who's around babies every day and has delivered hundreds of them, but isn't interested in having a child of her own.
Rebel Wilson plays party-heartying Robin, a colleague of Alice's who spends most of her time dishing out unsolicited advice about the single lifestyle.
And Alison Brie is Lucy, whose number-one priority is to tie the knot with someone and who trusts that one of the many dating sites she frequents will produce a Mr. Right.
On the performing scorecard, Dakota Johnson (who last year was celebrating Valentine's Day in Fifty Shades of Grey) is a charmer in the newly-single lead.
But Leslie Mann and Alison Brie have been seen to much better advantage in other films, while Rebel Wilson is so off-puttingly over-the-top, she drags the whole film down with her.
The men in their lives are played by the likes of Jake Lacy, Damon Wayans Jr., Jason Mantzoukas, Anders Holm, and Nicholas Braun, and they hit their marks but without making much of a mark.
The no-account, rewrite-needing screenplay by Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein, and Dana Fox, based on the debut novel of the same name by Liz Tuccillo, offers intersecting storylines, none of which are sufficiently interesting to make you want to get back to it after it's interrupted.
And there really isn't one important character, as scripted, who comes to life and merits our concern.
In terms of its target audience, How to Be Single is really more of a ladies'-night-out offering than a date-night attraction. But disappointed viewers who question its appropriateness as a Valentine's Day weekend destination will do so because of its lack of oomph rather than its adopted genre.
This one barely registers during its running time and hardly lingers in your thoughts and memories thereafter.
So we'll date 2 stars out of 4. How to Be Single ends up being an object lesson in How to Be Singularly Disinterested.
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