He Won’t Be That Into You If You Make Him Watch This Movie

He’s Just Not That Into You
Running time 129 minutes
Written by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein
Directed by Ken Kwapis
Starring Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Kevin Connolly, Bradley Cooper, Ginnifer Goodwin, Scarlett Johansson, Justin Long

Up to the eyeballs in dumb movies about zit-faced teenagers trying to get laid, we now have to suffer through a disturbing trend toward Gen Xers trying to get laid. The boring clods in the wasted all-star cast of the dismal He’s Just Not That Into You swim with sharks through the infested waters of dating hell into the cesspools of marriage; it has all the depth of a television sitcom parody. In the end, it’s hard to tell who is more miserable—the losers on the screen or the victims in the audience.

This doggie doo was adapted from the stupid self-help book of the same title by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, two of the writers on Sex and the City, and the derivative influence wincingly shows. In fact, the title is an old line from the show. The book asked probing questions like: Why don’t men call back? And why doesn’t he want to sleep with you anymore? Or what do you do if you find lipstick on his Calvins? As with paste jobs based on other gimmicky beach-bag totes, like Sex and the Single Girl and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, screenwriters Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein were forced to tackle first things first—like a plot. They threw in the beach towel early. Result: no plot at all. Just a lot of aimless people wandering around downtown Baltimore trying to connect the dots, finding loss and rupture everywhere except where it really counts, and blaming everyone else for their misery. In this chick flick, the one-dimensional men are like afterthoughts, and the stereotypical women have all been treated like dog poo since childhood. Divided into chapter heads like “If he’s not sleeping with you …”, the movie applies Band-Aids as it plunges into endless brick walls, with a gridlock of characters and plot twists that left me with a pounding migraine. It’s like a soap opera that never ends, with one-liners.

Let me see if I got this right. Scarlett Johansson is Anna, a hippie yoga instructor and wannabe pop singer who meets and falls for a talent agent named Ben (Bradley Cooper) in the supermarket, but Ben is married to Janine (Jennifer Connelly), who wants to dump him because he lies about smoking hidden cigarettes; Ben confides in his dedicated bachelor buddy Neil (Ben Affleck), a photographer who breaks up with his longtime girlfriend Beth (Jennifer Aniston), who works in the same ad agency with Janine’s neurotic sister Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin), who is madly smitten with Conor (Kevin Connolly), a realtor who is also hooked on sexpot Anna, so Gigi turns to Conor’s best friend Alex (Justin Long), a bar manager and terminal babe-abuser who mysteriously falls for the pathetic Gigi, who gives up on Conor, who finds a new squeeze named Mary (Drew Barrymore), who makes the fatal mistake of seeking advice from gay boys, and … oh, the hell with it. Although some of these people know each other only tangentially, the threads all connect in ways that are greatly contrived, but less than riveting. The fact that the women in this movie are all neglected, betrayed, used and hurt by a succession of men who are all arrogant, selfish jerks is not entirely credible because the girls are too ridiculously beautiful to be so desperate. (Excuse me, but are they asking us to believe no man will return a phone message left by Jennifer Aniston?) Sorting out the stars like dirty laundry, Ginnifer Goodwin steals the movie. Already a weekly favorite of mine as Bill Paxton’s youngest sister-wife on the HBO series Big Love, she’s convincingly bubbly and heartbreaking at the same time.

He’s Just Not That Into You may appeal to the same people who managed to sit through Sex and the City. It gags on the same slick, pointless, forgettable jokes that make you chuckle softly and then induce instant amnesia. Director Ken Kwapis has made a sappy movie that does everything to win your love except lick you in the face. But there’s more to filmmaking than listing the reasons why dating hell leads to canceled MySpace accounts.

rreed@observer.com