'Crazy Stupid Love' Review: Great Performances, Witty Script

Man, has it been one rough summer for Tom Hanks. As the writer-director and star of the colossal flop “Larry Crowne,” he no doubt has found plenty of time to wonder why audiences stayed away in droves from his tale of an average Joe (well, Larry) and how he shakes his life up when he loses his job amid the recession.

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He may want to look over his shoulder at Steve Carell to figure it all out, for Carell appears to have taken over the title of America’s Favorite Everyman from Hanks. It’s not just that Carell shares Hanks’ genuine relatability and genial everyday charm, but likely also the fact that one is hard-pressed to find Carell forcing his political opinions on movie fans and telling them how to vote. He just shows up and does a great job, often weaving tales of sympathetic characters who ultimately try to do the right thing even amid a world that seems to reward doing the wrong thing – and making us laugh like crazy in the process.

And so it is that “Crazy Stupid Love” marks the latest Carell film to hit the multiplex, this time backed by a stellar ensemble cast with Oscar nominees Ryan Gosling and Julianne Moore, Oscar winner Marisa Tomei, fast-rising star Emma Stone and the perennially popular Kevin Bacon – all of whom are intertwined in surprising ways as they each search for their own form of true love. The difference between this film and utter dreck like “Valentine’s Day” and “He’s Just Not That Into You” is that “Crazy” is genuinely funny and touching with well-drawn and acted portrayals of people who seem real, rather than merely looking like it’s weaving stories just to hit all the marketing demographics in existence.

The film kicks off with a bang as average suburban couple Cal Weaver (Carell) and his wife Emily (Moore) are having a seemingly romantic dinner. But when Carell says they should each blurt out what they want at the same time, he shouts “Dessert!” while she yells, “A divorce!”

Needless to say, this comes as a shock to Cal, who agrees instantly to move out and starts getting drunk in a bar alone. That is, until he meets Jacob Palmer (Gosling), a top-notch ladies’ man who offers to get Cal back in the dating game via coaching him on everything from better wardrobe choices to killer pickup lines. Soon, Cal is a ladies’ man sowing his wild oats -including a hilarious hookup with a gloriously unhinged Tomei – after sleeping with just one woman his entire life thus far.

Meanwhile, Emily is torn between the desire for midlife excitement that led her to sleep with David Lindhagen (Bacon) and her guilt over abandoning her marriage and leaving her troubled 13-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) and younger daughter feeling adrift without a father in the house. As Robbie himself tries to woo the babysitter (Analeigh Tipton) who’s 17 and looks down on him while pining for Cal, Jacob meets his romantic match in a young woman named Hannah (Stone) who sees through his seductive games and has a big secret of her own.

“Crazy Stupid Love” comes from the unlikely directing duo of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who previously teamed up as writers for the hard-R comedy classic “Bad Santa” and as the directors of the little-seen (yet surprisingly funny and affecting) Jim Carrey gay romantic comedy “I Love You Philip Morris.” Here, they show a surprising maturity and warmth that’s borne out of the terrific screenplay by Dan Fogelman, who’s previously scored more with animated films like “Cars” and “Tangled” than with live-action films like “Fred Claus.”

The characters may not be perfect people, and are prone to making mistakes like the rest of us. But the beauty of the film lies in the fact that true love may be an ideal, but it’s one worth striving for and that while even a great marriage may take hard work, it’s worth the effort.

Put all the elements together of a great cast, an insightful and witty script, and directors eager to strut their stuff, and “Crazy Stupid Love” should prove to be the sane and wise choice for date-night moviegoers throughout the rest of the summer.

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