As helmed by co-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the multigenerational romantic comedy "Crazy, Stupid, Love" (Warner Bros.) eventually reaches a conclusion that affirms genuine affection and marital fidelity over the apparent glamour of promiscuity.
But the path to this mostly acceptable—though hardly unblemished—wrap-up is littered with sordid attempts to garner laughs from degraded behavior.
A case in point: the early scene in which Robbie (Jonah Bobo), the 13-year-old son of the suburban couple at the core of the story, is surprised in the act of pleasuring himself when Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), the family's 17-year-old baby sitter on whom he has a hopeless crush, walks into his bedroom without knocking.
Though initially horrified, Robbie later comes downstairs to announce to Jessica that, not only is he not ashamed of what he was doing, he always thinks of her while doing it.
As endearing as this piece of information is no doubt intended to seem, Jessica is not to be swayed since, to paraphrase the old Cole Porter lyric, her heart belongs (secretly) to daddy; in this case, Robbie's daddy, Cal (Steve Carell). And Jessica's prospects are looking up, given that we've just seen Robbie's mom, Emily (Julianne Moore), stun the complacent Cal by informing him that she's having an affair with a co-worker (Kevin Bacon) and wants a divorce.
Suddenly cut adrift by his high school sweetheart, "soul mate" and spouse of many years, Cal becomes a pathetic barfly at the local singles' joint where he bores the other patrons by loudly and inappropriately reciting his woes. For no easily explained reason, Cal's plight moves suave playboy Jacob (Ryan Gosling), who sets out to teach the newly single nebbish the secrets of successful womanizing.
As Cal begins to dabble in the Hugh Hefner world of expensive clothes, high-end tipples and meaningless chatter calculated to seduce, his mentor in the Playboy lifestyle becomes uncharacteristically smitten by hard-to-fool lawyer Hannah (Emma Stone), who seems destined to curb Jacob's wild excesses.
Indeed, along the way to a climactic cross-wiring of all these competing amours, both Cal and Jacob discover the shortcomings of a personal life devoted to nothing more than the next roll in the hay. Yet included in the ultimate resolution is an exchange between Robbie and Jessica that—while presumably intended to be either amusing or perhaps moving—provides instead an uncomfortable bookend to what has previously passed between them.
As part of her efforts to get Cal to regard her as more than just a schoolgirl (which, of course, is precisely what she is), Jessica takes pictures of herself posing in the altogether. Though her plan misfires, she eventually entrusts the images to Robbie—as a middle school graduation present, no less —so he can use them to keep doing what he's not ashamed of until he's old enough for her to take him seriously.
The film contains strong sexual content—including semi-graphic adulterous activity, implied masturbation, and an amateur pornography theme—considerable sexual and brief irreverent humor, a couple of uses of profanity and a bit of rough and much crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.
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