Romantic comedies usually stick to formula: boy meets girl; boy and girl fall in love but don't know it; boy and girl engage in various conflicts; boy and girl finally recognize their love and get together. Most such romcoms become stale through overuse, or they become so sugary sweet or so grossly profane they're hard to watch. "Crazy, Stupid, Love.," the 2011 romantic comedy from directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa ("I Love You Phillip Morris") and writer Dan Fogelman ("Cars," "Cars 2," "Tangled," "Bolt") alters the formula and provides something just different enough to catch a person's attention.
For one thing, the film is neither too saccharine nor too crude. Indeed, it's kind of old fashioned in its approach to romance and relationships. Maybe that comes from writer Fogelman having given us all those animated movies listed above. Like the tortured punctuation of its title, "Crazy, Stupid, Love." attempts to look at the subject of amour in all its "crazy" and "stupid" guises, while at the same time offering up some bittersweet humor. It's all very easy to take, without boring or offending anyone. How's that for a change?
The movie stars Steve Carell as Cal Weaver, a happily married man in his mid forties who, after twenty-five years of wedded bliss, finds that his wife, Emily (Julianne Moore), is having an affair with a co-worker (Kevin Bacon, of all people). It comes out of the blue: She wants a divorce, and he can do nothing but agree. The next problem for Cal is what to do as a newly single guy. For a quarter of a century he was a typical suburban husband with a wife, two kids, a house, and a garden. Now, he's on his own. His answer: He mopes.
Hanging out in an upscale bar, Cal meets the co-star of the film, Ryan Gosling as a supercool dude named Jacob Palmer. Jacob is Cal's opposite, everything Cal isn't: Jacob is young, handsome, chiseled, and very much the ladies' man, a studly pickup artist who's so cool he lives in a glass house in the L.A. hills, listens to vinyl records, and mixes the perfect drink.
For reasons unknown, Jacob decides to become Cal's mentor, to take Cal under his wing and teach him how to stop moping and start picking up girls. This is probably the film's major leap of faith. We never really find out why Jacob resolves to give Cal a makeover. He just does, helping Cal with a new wardrobe, a new haircut, and a new attitude toward life. Jacob says he wants to help Cal "rediscover his manhood." Maybe Jacob pities Cal; maybe he sees Cal as a challenge; or maybe he's bored with own shallow lifestyle and needs to see if he can create someone in his own image, just for the heck of it. This ambiguous failing in the story does not, however, prove its downfall. Carell and Gosling are too good for that.
Carell, who most often plays lumps, as he did in his breakout film, "The 40 Year Old Virgin," instead capitalizes on that deadpan demeanor in "Crazy, Stupid, Love.," the movie actually giving the actor something more to work with than usual, something more serious for him to develop. The movie is not all fun and games. Likewise, there is more to Gosling's character than meets the eye.
"Crazy, Stupid, Love." is fun and funny, to be sure, but it's dramatic, too, striving to create real characterizations and put real people into, admittedly, improbable situations. So far so good.
Where the film meets its second shortcoming, though, is in being a tad too ambitious. Rather than just centering on Cal and Jacob, it brings in a slew of peripheral relationships, as if to show us exactly how crazy and stupid love can be for everyone of all ages and genders. So, we also get a look at the romantic problems between Cal and a sexy English teacher (Marisa Tomei); between Cal's ex-wife and her new lover; between Jacob and a young woman, Hannah (Emma Stone), he meets and falls in love with; between Cal's thirteen-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) and his seventeen-year-old baby-sitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), with whom he falls in love; and between the baby-sitter and the older man with whom she falls in love...Cal. Are you keeping score?
OK, so there are people in "Crazy, Stupid, Love." that nobody in real life would ever meet. That's beside the point. Comedies have to exaggerate. This one does so subtly, with few or no gross-out jokes or obscenities. In fact, it's a relatively quiet film, with only a few surprises at the end that seem more than a bit over-the-top. Otherwise, the characters and their predicaments rather grow on you. Silly? Yeah, a little. Touching? Yeah, a lot.
Warner video engineers use a single-layer BD25 and an MPEG-4/AVC codec to reproduce the film on high-definition Blu-ray in its native aspect ratio, 2.40:1. The results look too dark for reality, and detailing and delineation are only moderately good, the picture a tad soft and smeared at times, with faces too red or too orange. Although blacks look solid enough, dimmer areas of the screen often seem murky. Even in broad daylight things look dim; bright but darkish.
The 5.1 lossless DTS-HD Master Audio does as good a job as one could expect, given that dialogue makes up most of the soundtrack, along with the noise of a few crowded restaurant and nightclub scenes. The surrounds replicate the ambiance of multiple voices and clinking glasses pretty well, the midrange clean and well focused.
Among the extras are two brief featurettes. The first one, "Steve and Ryan Walk into a Bar," is about seven minutes long, with stars Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling on set chatting. The second featurette, "The Player Meets His Match," is about six minutes, with the stars again on set, this time discussing Gosling's character. Nevertheless, the best bonus item is a twelve-minute sequence of deleted scenes; I counted around fourteen of them.
Next, because this is a two-disc Blu-ray Combo Pack, it contains a high-definition Blu-ray copy of the movie on one disc and a standard-definition and UltraViolet digital copy of the movie on the second disc. What's an "Ultraviolet" copy, you're still asking? The folks at Warners define it as a format that "allows you to collect movies and TV shows and watch them at home or on-the-go, using streaming or permanently downloaded copies." Fair enough.
Finally, the movie comes with thirteen scene selections; English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese spoken languages; French, Spanish, Portuguese, and other subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired. A thin cardboard slipcase houses a cutout double Eco-case.
I can't see "Crazy, Stupid, Love." winning any Oscars for acting, writing, directing, or originality (if the Academy gave the latter award), yet it's an amiable enough movie, with likeable (if too many) characters in unlikely situations. It passes a pleasant few hours and may just earn Steve Carell the respect of a few moviegoers who have grown tired of his usual sad-sack portrayals over the last few years.