Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Hmmm… Paul Rudd playing a super nice everyman, Owen Wilson in the role of an aloof funny dude, Jack Nicholson playing a boorish asshole and Reese Witherspoon doing whatever she wants to do because unlike those other three cats Ms. Witherspoon doesn’t get typecast all that often. I think the term we would use for her would be ‘an actress’. And this movie, with these fine actors doing things they can do in their sleep was directed by veteran, borderline hall of fame director in James L. Brooks. The conundrum with this scenario is why in the world wasn’t ‘How Do You Know’ better than it was? It wasn’t a terrible movie considering that’s almost impossible with this much talent involved, but it could be the most star studded Lifetime Movie Network film ever created. With no disrespect aimed at the Lifetime Movie Network. Even though it reads like I just disrespected the Lifetime Movie Network. And even if I was being disrespectful, what are they gonna do? Sick Melissa Gilbert or Tracey Gold on me? Meredith Baxter? Lindsey Wagner?  Bring it.

Lisa (Witherspoon) is an athlete for U.S. Softball and by all accounts she’s good at what she does, but she’s old. True enough the shoes I’m wearing right now are older than Lisa but unfortunately there is no room for old chicks of high moral character in a young woman’s game. What Lisa needs is a break and so she goes on a semi-blind date with George (Rudd) who also needs a break since he’s about to be indicted for securities fraud due to shenanigans put forth by his old man Charles (Nicholson). Lisa is kind of dating Matty (Wilson), a fourteen million dollar a year relief pitcher for the Washington Nationals, even though in reality I doubt the entire payroll for the Nationals is fourteen million, but for this movie we will roll with that. Matty likes Lisa an awful lot and Lisa kind of likes Matty as well but Matty’s relationship skills need some polishing if he’s going to succeed with a girl like Lisa.

Outstanding. George has come to the conclusion that he loves Lisa. I’m not too terribly sure how he came to this conclusion considering Lisa hasn’t done anything, outside of being kind of cute, to endear herself to George, but he is in love now. The problem for George, outside of the fact he could be going to jail for a long time, is that Lisa is really going to give it a go with Matty because he is a pretty funny dude and he does have a lot of money. I’m sure her attraction to Matty goes deeper than that, but that’s all I was able to unearth.

Now George has to find a Romantic Comedy way to wrest control of Lisa away from Matty, even though this shouldn’t be all that difficult since all you really have to do to get a woman from Matty is wait for him to screw up. But George is on the clock, the feds are at the door and a stint in a Federal pen is imminent… that is unless love can find its way to his heart. Or something like that. It’s complicated.

There are a few things aren’t working all that well in this Romantic Comedy, mainly that its low on romance and light on comedy… but other than that… For starters, while Paul Rudd and Reese Witherspoon are mighty appealing actors, they had about as much chemistry as Dennis Rodman and Jean Claude Van Damme had together in ‘Double Team’. I had to dig deep for that reference my friends. Reese looked like she had trouble even just pretending to like Paul Rudd in this flick which had me thinking that Rudd must’ve kept taking her parking spot while they were on set. So while the romance was pretty lousy, the comedy was a little better, but the problem with the comedy is that the marketing department gave away the two best gags for this movie in the trailer. I’m sure they would’ve used something else if they could have, but after watching the movie, they were kind of stuck. On top of that the producers could’ve gotten anybody old dude… and I mean anybody… to do what Jack Nicholson gave them in this movie. Anybody. Could’ve saved themselves a few million dollars in the process. They could’ve gotten Louis Gossett Jr. to play Paul Rudd’s dad… it wouldn’t have mattered.

But the movie is never so bad that it becomes unwatchable if only because Reese Witherspoon is cute, Paul Rudd is affable and Owen Wilson is funny. James L. Brooks can sleep-direct his way through a movie like this and still have it be palatable, but I don’t think anybody walking into this movie, especially fans of all involved, were ready for palatable. They were expecting something pretty damn good. They didn’t get that. Now if they had Nancy McKeon and my main man Casper Van Dien in this movie…

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