Movie News & Reviews

'No Strings Attached' more honest than average rom-com

One of the nice things about living under an overpass is you get firstlook at all the new movie billboards.

I don't even need an alarm clock! It's pretty hard to miss those bigtrucks hauling in the new ads when you have no walls. You want to talkabout your free entertainment, there's nothing better than spendingthe six weeks until they take it down sitting in the dirt and laughingat what a stupid movie the thing they are advertising is bound to be.

No Strings Attached, a romantic comedy starring Ashton Kutcher!As if I would ever watch that. I would seek gainful employment beforepaying to see that obvious bomb of awful.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

Or so I thought until I found out nothing else was releasing in theTri-Cities this week. Then I became sad. Then I went to see NoStrings Attached, because that's what heroes do. At last,confusion set in: hey wait, this movie is kind of good?

When Ashton Kutcher finds out his ex-girlfriend is dating his dadKevin Kline, Kutcher drunkenly calls every girl he knows looking for aone-night stand. He wakes in the apartment of Natalie Portman, a womanhe's met just a handful of times.

They didn't have sex the night before -- but they do in the morning.With Portman disinterested in pursuing things further, Kutcher has tosettle for a no-strings arrangement. If he so much as hints at wantingsomething more, Portman will be out the door.

Which is less likely? If the sun rose in the west, then descended toserve you coffee and breakfast in bed? Or if Ashton Kutcher wereinvolved in a good movie? (Exception made, of course, for Dude,Where's My Car?. Which looked idiotic, and was, but in the bestpossible way.) Well, I hope you like your coffee served at two milliondegrees, because No Strings Attached is quite watchable.

Not that it's flawless. In any movie about a friends with benefitsrelationship, you can guess right now how the entire plot plays out.Come on, go ahead. What? No, an increasingly love-mad Kutcher doesn'tfling Portman out a 20-story window and then ride a unicycle to awhorehouse. What were you...oh, forget it.

Other aspects of Elizabeth Meriwether's script fare better. Sure, muchof the secondary characters' dialogue feels like it was lifted fromthe cutting room floor of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but it's thestuff that could have made it. Seriously, it's pretty funny,often vulgar without being crass. Though there's a lot of situationalcomedy, it isn't overly broad -- when they meet in college, Portmaninvites Kutcher out to a vague event; he shows up in bright schoolcolors to her father's funeral.

Credit for making good with that material is due to director IvanReitman, the guy who made Ghostbusters and several other lessawesome comedies, such as Ghostbusters 2. And Evolution.You know what wasn't a good movie? Evolution.

Here, he gets some nice performances out of Kutcher and Portman, whosecharacters could have easily come off as types. Portman doing good,that I can believe. Kutcher? That's like leaving for work and cominghome to find the dishes have come alive, washed themselves andconverted that broken TV into a functional still.

Right then: No Strings Attached is somewhat conventional andpredictable. It's not going to revolutionize the way we think aboutemotionless boning. But it is funny, unmanipulative, and more honestthan your average romantic comedy. Color me surprised.

Grade: B

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