Review: “What’s Your Number?”

1. There are a lot of talented, funny people involved with "What's Your Number?" You can tell by their sheer number that, at one point, this seemed like an exciting, different project. Look at the names of the people who show up in this: Zachary Quinto, Joel McHale, Andy Samberg, Chris Pratt, Aziz Ansari, Blythe Danner, Martin Freeman, Thomas Lennon, freaking Anthony Mackie. These are people who, when they show up in a supporting role in a romantic comedy, make you think they saw something in this, initially. It's not necessarily because the film's concept is so revolutionary: It's a classic chick-lit scenario of a woman trying to meet up with all her ex-boyfriends to find The One That Got Away. It's not because there's some crack creative team behind it; the film's director has helmed multiple "Entourage" episodes, if that tells you anything. No, I think they signed up for this because of Anna Faris.

2. Anna Faris is a truly gifted, wicked comedienne, not just off-center but truly whacked, a loud, messy, crazy kind of hilarious. I really can't think of another comedic actress as fearless and nutty as she is, and it's no surprise movies never quite know what to do with her. She tends to be better when she just does her own thing; "Observe and Report" is a terrible movie, but she's a riot every second she's on screen. (She even dug out from under Gregg Araki's typical mess for a ballsy, batty stoned performance in "Smiley Face.") When I first saw the previews for "What's Your Number?" it looked like a movie that finally got Faris; she's gorgeous but so loony that you have to essentially build your entire movie around her, and make the audience just fall for her, lunacy and all. Sad to say, "What's Your Number?" isn't even close to that movie. You kind of get a sense everybody lost their nerve halfway through.

3. The main problem with "What's Your Number?" is that it puts all the pieces together for a raunchy, sexy romantic comedy, and then keeps put them together to make a traditional romantic comedy. Anna Faris is not a traditional romantic comedy lead, but the movie keeps putting so many bubbleheaded lines in her mouth that you can see Faris trying to subvert them even as she says them. It's repeatedly frustrating to watch the actors keep trying to release themselves from the shackles of Romantic Comedy, and to have the movie keep dragging them back into the mess anyway. Faris should be a screwup in the Kristen Wiig in "Bridesmaids" mode, but even more untethered and insane, just a big rowdy mess. And if the film trusted Faris as much as that film trusted Wiig, she might have been. But the movie doesn't. It thinks it's still chick lit.

4. So, we get the obvious romantic partner whom her heroine doesn't realize she loves until it's always too late, play by Chris Evans with his typical lunkheaded pseudo-sincerity that makes me feel sorry for him more than dislike him. We get a big wedding scene, involving Faris' sister, who is the third largest character in the movie and I still couldn't give you a single biographical detail about. (OK, she's blond. I remember that.) And, perhaps most jarring, we get an awful, jangly, Taylor-Swift-ish, you-go-girl! poppy soundtrack that just buries the film in a morass of bland American Idol inertia. (When you don't believe a single character in the film would listen to the incessant songs on your soundtrack, you have a problem.) This film should be so much weirder than it is. By trying to remain romantic comedy audience-friendly, it just purees the whole thing into a stew no one would want to eat.

5. There are still moments when one of the actors breaks free and starts having fun outside the movie's rigid, dull rom-com structure. Specifically, when Faris does, most notably when she attempts to woo an old beau (Freeman) by pretending she is British. As she gets drunker and drunker, she loses hold of the accent, and by the end, she's talking Scottish, then jibberish, then "Borat." It's an unhinged little soliloquy of hilarity, and it's a giddy snippet of what this movie could have been, if it had just let Faris go. Then, when the scene is over, the movie just whack-a-moles Faris right back into her little rom-com slot. "What's Your Number?" had a chance to be the movie that finally showed Faris to be the supreme, wild talent that she is, but it doesn't have the guts. I hope this movie doesn't discourage anyone else from trying. Just let her run amok. She's not Katherine Heigl. Thank God.

Grade: C