The first bit of ball-shaving comedy I remember seeing on film was in “American Wedding,” the third “American Pie” film, back in 2003. The second was in “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle” a year later, though I can’t quite recall if that was a ball-shaving bit or just a general manscaping bit. Regardless, there’s a ball-shaving bit in “She’s Out of My League,” so we’ve come to a point in American comedies where there are variations on the ball-shaving bit. I’ve now seen enough male pubic hair fall in tufts in films to last me a lifetime.
Perhaps the people who made “She’s Out of My League” thought that “American Pie” was released so long ago that no one would remember. Maybe that’s why they also included a bit in which an introverted protagonist prematurely ejaculates in his shorts. “League” even has the audacity to include a romantic montage set to Tal Bachman’s “She’s So High.” I grow tired of the “throwback” argument, as if I’m supposed to be impressed that a new movie gets the look and feel of a film released 10 years ago exactly right. Why can’t comedies try harder, or at least set their sappier material to the music of a modern pop singer we won’t remember 10 years from now?
That’s the problem in general with “She’s Out of My League.” It’s way too vanilla. The gross-out gags no longer shock because we’ve seen them a million times (though mercifully less frequently in recent years, thanks to Apatow and the undertow of the direct-to-DVD market). It has a one-joke plot that isn’t especially funny: A hot girl starts dating an average-looking guy, and every situation blooms out of the superficial discrepancy. It goes on and on and on until its foregone conclusion. We all learn a valuable lesson about self esteem. Beauty is on the inside, et cetera.
Kirk is a TSA agent directing people through airport metal detectors when he meets cute with Molly, rescuing her cell phone. After a few dates, Molly is meeting Kirk’s family, a collection of total disasters except for his mother, who is, after all, Debra Jo Rupp. Kirk’s brother Dylan (Kyle Bornheimer) and Dylan’s pregnant fiancée Debbie (Jessica St. Clair) are obnoxious train wrecks. Kirk’s ex-girlfriend Marnie (Lindsay Sloane) has remained friends with Kirk’s folks in order to give her an excuse to hang out in scenes, vying for Kirk’s jealousy.
Kirk’s friends include coworker Stainer (T.J. Miller), not Stifler, who delivers his chauvinistic lines like a post-pubescent Napoleon Dynamite. There’s tried-and-true blue pal Devon (Nate Torrence), and Jack (Mike Vogel), who seems included solely to bring the group to an even four. They share the typically ironic macho young guy conversations about women that similar characters have had in a hundred different films, only breaking through into witty territory on a couple of occasions and then not with much force.
Added to this seemingly endless list of supporting characters is Patty (Krysten Ritter), best friend to Molly, whose two character dimensions are “bitch” and “Anne Hathaway.” And Molly’s parents, and Molly’s ex-boyfriend, and why go on? These characters are only here to move things along under the absence of any kind of story. Screenwriters Sean Anders and John Morris, who have collaborated on a few films including the opus that was “Sex Drive,” are trying to get blood from a stone with this script, settling at times for other bodily fluids.
And yet, thanks to the performances of its two leads, the film isn’t entirely a waste of time. Jay Baruchel and Alice Eve won me over with their respective portrayals of Kirk and Molly, and their scenes together are the film’s best as they talk and share things about themselves and allow us get to know them as human beings. And there is some funny material, including a scene in which Kirk is mistaken for a waiter at a restaurant. Too bad it’s surrounded by all of this bland, lazy comedy that doesn’t try anything new. Those whose senses of humour peaked with the turn-of-century gross-out comedies may enjoy “She’s Out of My League.” I wanted out.
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