Temporarily funny


I like Jay Baruchel. He’s the 21st-century Don Knotts, and even in a forgettable film like She’s Out of My League — its title alone secures it a place in film history alongside She’s All That and She’s Out of Control — Baruchel’s adenoidal, sidewinding line readings, which are exact verbal corollaries to his zigzaggy eyebrows, can make the stupidest material sound temporarily funny.

Only for a moment, though, as the old song goes, then the moment’s gone. I laughed here and there at She’s Out of My League, but I sort of hated everything it had to say about nerds and babes and the sliding scale of self-image. Half the film takes place in a Judd Apatow comedy, or tries to (in Knocked Up, which is infinitely wittier, Baruchel was Seth Rogen’s pal who mewls, “I shouldn’t have gone in there” at the hospital). The other half takes place in a very drably photographed Pittsburgh, where Kirk (Baruchel) works the airport with his pals as a Transportation Security Administration employee.

“She kissed you? On purpose?” Kirk’s friend asks him, after the lawyer-turned-events-planner played by Alice Eve makes her interest known. Molly’s coming off a bad relationship to a good-looking, untrustworthy fellow; this, we’re told, is why she’s willing to give Kirk a try. His friends freak out; Kirk’s coarse-grained, Branson-loving family ogle and paw her over dinner. She remains supernaturally sunny about it all, while Kirk’s discomfort levels exceed those set by early Ben Stiller comedies, which is saying something.

The movie exists for its set pieces involving ejaculation and the like. Molly exists to fulfill a male fantasy, blankly. She’s a mirage of a character. (If this were Alice in Wonderland, she’d be the Cheshire Cleavage.) The nerd gets the babe, but the film, directed by Jim Field Smith, is both verbally and visually flat. Rather than this high-concept and very likely profitable affair, I’d rather see a lower-concept comedy about two people who can’t be pigeonholed quite so easily.

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