Walk on thin ice turns solid with 'Into you'

Posted: Friday, February 13, 2009

Any movie that has its actors look directly into the camera and talk to the audience is skating on thin ice in my book. The ice gets even thinner when there's a joke about Africa right out of the gate that's questionable at best. In fact, for me, "He's Just Not That Into You" had several things adding weight onto that thinning ice.

The film, written by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, is based on the book by Greg Behrendt; I know virtually nothing about Behrendt except that he looks nothing like someone I'd willingly take relationship advice from, and he had a talk show for about five minutes a while back. I never had any desire to read his book, so why would I see the movie?

Getting past my admittedly unreasonable prejudice, forgiving the actors talking to the camera and accepting the joke about Africa, the movie's onslaught of celebrity cast members is out of control. An ensemble movie has to introduce all the characters quickly in order to set the scene; after all, there are lots of storylines to cover and only 129 minutes to cover them. In "He's Just Not That Into You" these intros become a who's who in Hollywood.

There's Ginnifer Goodwin (easily the least known of the whole crew), who plays Gigi, desperate for love. Then there's Scarlett Johansson as Anna, the single girl who meets and falls for Ben (Bradley Cooper); Ben is unhappily married to Janine (Jennifer Connelly), who is also unhappy but would like to save their marriage. Janine works for some advertising company with Gigi and Beth (Jennifer Aniston); Beth lives with - but is not married to - Neil (Ben Affleck), because Neil doesn't believe in marriage. Anna, by the way, is friends with Mary (Drew Barrymore), who is helping Conor (Kevin Connolly) expand his real estate client base. Oh, and Conor goes on a blind date with Gigi but he's head over heels for Anna.

Tough to keep track of everyone, right? This is especially true when you have to take a few seconds each time someone pops up on screen. "Oh, Jennifer Aniston! Hey, look it's the Mac commercial guy!"

That's the bad news.

The good news is that by the end of the two hours you spend with this celebrity-riddled cast, they are just characters. I can't remember when it happened, but I did stop seeing Aniston - I saw Beth, and felt for her predicament (in love with a man who won't marry her). I did stop gawking at Jennifer Connelly's beauty and started wishing Janine would get out of her doomed marriage. I even stopped worrying about Johansson's back - she's going to have problems, if you know what I mean - and started wondering what Anna was doing trying to break up a marriage.

I'm not sure if that's a credit to Ken Kwapis' direction, the superb cast, Behrendt's book, or some combination of all of the above. Certainly, though, when that damn Ben Affleck brought me to tears not once but twice (just like he does in "Armageddon") I knew I'd given up trying to hate "He's Just Not That Into You."

The genius of this concept, and the reason Behrendt is a rich man, is that every human on the planet has had relationship adventures. We have all been there. You just pick the "there" that applies to you.

It is hard not to like a movie you can relate to. Impossible for me, in fact. And hey, if you don't like it, I suppose the reply is, "You're just not that into it."

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