Mr. Movie

'No Strings Attached' doesn't string you along

No Strings Attached stars Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher.

Portman — speaking of stringy — is Emma, a doctor doing her residency. Emma doesn’t do love. All the goo, emotion and, for lack of a better word, the strings attached to love don’t work.

But sex does. A little more of it would be nice.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

Kutcher is Adam. His dad is the former star of a popular television show and a notorious womanizer who ends up in a May-December relationship with a girlfriend that broke Adam’s heart.

His character works on a Disneyesque TV show. He first meets Portman’s character at summer camp when he was a teen. They meet again a decade later, and one night after he gets blitzed on booze after learning daddy is boffing his ex.

Friends with benefits is the result. Or — for the uninitiated — friends only, but friends that are basically friends to have sex.

That’s different from most chick flicks.

Here’s what’s the same. He's the usual hunky guy. She’s a gorgeous lady. What is supposed to pass for contrast are flippant trendy friends. The stars have the kind of conversations you can classify as normal. The dialogue of the friends is straight sitcom.

And the plot pretty much goes exactly where you already know it will go.

So what’s to like? To start with, Portman — who by the way, gets top billing — and Kutcher click. The pheromones fly and in a believable way. Both are terrific actors with the skill to give multiple dimensions to characters trying to sort out the complexities of love.

She’s tough, unyielding and guarded. No one is going to pierce that armor. He’s the boy next door. Goofy, awkward and charming.

The film also benefits from an exceptional supporting cast. Kevin Kline is brilliant as Adam’s egocentric dad and Lake Bell, Ludacris, Gretta Gerwig and Cary Elwes are interesting in their roles.

Director Ivan Reitman hasn’t done much of note since Kindergarten Cop in 1990. This one is noteworthy. He takes newcomer Elizabeth Meriwether’s excellent script and keeps it focused. Reitman develops the characters and his film from A to B to C. No dawdling, no dragging. Bing, bang, boom.

That really helps the end result. Most chick flicks are at least 20 to 30 minutes too long.

No Strings Attached is a misnomer. There are strings. Lots of them. In this case a better definition of the strings is threads. Most of the threads of this rom-com are familiar. Very.

And there are no surprises. It is a total chick flick. It ends up exactly as you know it will end. But the formula has — shall we say, in the case of these characters — enough kinks to at least keep it interesting.

Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars

Rated R for mature themes, language, sex. It opens Friday, Jan. 21 at the Carmike 12 and the Fairchild Cinemas 12.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.