Clever, fun, love

A rom-com that’s funny and smart

Crazy, Stupid, Love
Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated PG-13.
Rated 4.0

Crazy, Stupid, Love is such a clever and endearing piece of romantic dramedy that it feels churlish to try to pick it apart. Packaged in a genre that traditionally plays it aggressively safe, the film is refreshingly adventurous enough to color outside the lines.

The film opens in a candlelit restaurant where love is in the future and romance is playing out under the tables. Here we meet placid Cal (Steve Carell) having a hot potato dropped in his lap by wife Emily (Julianne Moore): She wants a divorce. And she’s slept with a co-worker. Burn. Only thing left for a cuckold to do is pay the tab, move out of the house and open up another tab at a local bar and settle in as the resident sad sack who moans about his bad luck to anyone within earshot. Yeah, that guy.

Enter house Lothario Jake (Ryan Gosling), who inexplicably puts his harem on hold in order to help Cal regain his mojo. Meanwhile, Cal’s young son has a crush on the babysitter, who in turn has a crush on …

Well, yeah, it’s one of those movies, with a wheels-within-wheels narrative that draws its humor from having seemingly disparate characters cross each other’s paths until a pattern is set up to deliver the punch line. That’s not a bad thing. It takes skill to pull off that kind of narrative juggling, and here the filmmakers manage to keep all their balls in the air gracefully.

If Crazy, Stupid, Love has a weakness, it is that the story feels a little compressed. This kind of convoluted character riffing requires a little more breathing room than it is afforded. As it is, coincidence and shortcuts are relied on a little too heavily to allow time enough for the characters to become anything more than one-liner delivery machines.

Fortunately, the cast infuses the characters with charm enough to consider that nitpicking. As far as romantic comedies go, this one is a keeper.