Poor Anna Faris. She is desperately trying to get into the spotlight for leading female comedian, the same touted position that Kirsten Wiig just claimed this past summer after Bridesmaids became a smash hit. Faris has the talent and the looks, she’s a kooky presence with equal amounts of charm and enthusiasm, but the obvious problem is evident in her weak film credentials.
The House Bunny and the Scary Movie series aren’t box office hits or critically acclaimed gems that had the chance to be career-altering, although her role as a supporting force in 2009’s Observe and Report was a good detour for her. What’s Your Number? is not going to make any difference for Faris either, it’s a bland romantic comedy filled with pathetic attempts to be outrageous and vulgar for the sake of its female lead.
These plot ideas for standard run-of-the-mill romantic comedies seem so ludicrous that as a concept it’s almost demeaning towards a woman’s intelligence. What’s Your Number? story exists from a Marie Claire magazine article that states once a woman has had her fun with over 20 guys, she is destined to be alone for life.
To begin with, it’s an article from a dumb magazine that’s as truthful in its knowledge of relationships as a teenager’s online blog is. The fact that Faris’ character (Ally Darling), who loses her job and boyfriend during the opening scene, is remotely upset over such a minuscule thought of no significance is a feeble attempt for emotional attachment towards her crisis. Even distressed women out there don’t go to the extremes Ally does in the film just because of an article from Marie Claire.
Like clockwork, a hunky womanizer (Chris Evans) from across her apartment hall needs help hiding out in her place after his various one-night conquests. In exchange, Ally wants him to help her track down her former flames and see who Mr. Right is. Seems like a fair trade, well at least for a romantic comedy where no one has a brain that is. So, unemployed Ally travels the world with her male sidekick meeting her past lovers, and along the way discovers who she really is and ultimately what she really wants.
Nothing here is fresh or remotely funny. Instead of witty lines for Faris to rely on she is delegated to continually get embarrassed through physical humor that is painful to watch. Watching her hair extensions catch on fire during a date or get drunk for a wedding toast and make a complete ass of herself shamelessly has all been done before with better success.
That being said, there are glimpses of potential laughter and tugging on the heartstrings mainly due to Faris’ ability to let loose and give it everything she’s got. Almost all romantic comedies are cheesy with terrible story lines aimed at the lowest intellectual mind in the audience, but at least they respect the lead and show some grace. If the plot didn’t revolve around Ally getting into slapstick comedy then What’s Your Number? could have stood a chance. Instead, it goes for the stupid rather than the smart approach to garnering laughs.
It takes a film like What’s Your Number? to really see how gifted an actor can be. Through the mess that it is, Faris always comes smiling and is unwavering in her skill of being incredibly appealing. She is a leading women, no question about it, but without a suitable screenplay backing her up she’s doomed to keep starring in trash. No matter how beautiful she appears and funny she can be, Faris is locked in dumb-movie limbo until a film properly utilizes her comedic flair.
One positive in What’s Your Number? is it’s supporting cast, which is usually the case in any failed comedy. Chris Pratt, Martin Freeman, Andy Samberg, Anthony Mackie, Zachary Quinto and Joel McHale all have their individual moments as Ally’s ex’s that flash by in relative cameo status.
Blythe Danner and Ari Graynor both do a good job as well as family members who undermine Faris on occasion without ever prominently doing so. Then there’s Evans, Captain America himself, as a guy’s guy who just goes with the motions of the film. He knows what type of movie this is and doesn’t lower his performance because of it; he stays likable the whole way through. But then again, that’s what the role of a hunk requires you to be.
What’s Your Number? isn’t necessary as a romantic comedy should be. It goes for the cheap way out at every turn and uses Faris as a punching bag for acquiring jokes. It’s a tame effort at making women raunchy and doesn’t provide any solid laughs. The only redeeming factors are the actors involved, who all try their best with what’s been given to them (which isn’t much).
But once again it’s Faris who gets the blunt end of the stick here who keeps trying to keep her head above rough water; and thanks to her uncanny knack for being charismatic, she does just that. It can’t be that hard for someone like her in Hollywood to not get a first-class gig, so maybe it’s her agent’s fault. However, Faris was the executive producer for What’s Your Number?, which indicates the problem lies elsewhere.