No Strings Attached hardly breaks new ground in the romantic comedy genre yet I still found it mostly to be a funny if not charming film. Although Ashton Kutcher doesn’t deviate from what we’ve seen from in other similar movies, he fills in the role of the doting boyfriend wanting more from a relationship and Natalie Portman is more than suitable for the stubborn woman afraid of commitment and the pain that might follow.
Genre(s): Comedy, Romance
Paramount | R – 107 min. – $39.99 | May 10, 2011
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Writer(s): Mike Samdnek and Elizabeth Meriwether (story), Elizabeth Meriwether (screenplay)
Cast: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Cary Elwes, Lake Bell, Olivia Thirlby, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Kline
Theatrical Release Date: January 21, 2011
Features: Commentary, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, DVD/Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Portuguese (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish
Disc Size: 37.7 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B, C
THE MOVIE – 3.25/5
The art of the romantic comedy is pretty complicated because every scenario has been done to death and the formula basically remains the same from film to film: Boy meets girl, boy and girl don’t exactly get along but eventually are attracted to one another, things start going well for the couple before one does something stupid to piss the other one off and then in the end they make amends and live happily ever after.
Here comes the latest under the title of No Strings Attached. Emma (NATALIE PORTMAN) and Adam (ASHTON KUTCHER) met when they were teens at a summer camp where Adam is dealing with some emotional issues with his parents’ impending divorce. In a sweet gesture, Emma consoles him and in return Adam offers to finger her for which she politely declines. Then we fast forward 5 years the two meet once again at a college frat party in which the two get reacquainted and she asks him if he’d go with her some little event… her father’s funeral. You can see at this point Emma’s emotional development isn’t up to what it should be… Flash forward 5 more years and the two run into one another at an outdoor market and so begins the relationship.
We find that Emma is now a successful doctor while Adam is an assistant on a “High School Musical”-like musical/drama television show. He still has some parental issues, in particular with his father, Alvin (KEVIN KLINE), a famous actor of a popular 1980s sitcom, “Great, Scott!” After a night of drinking, he wakes up in Emma and her pals’ apartment, buck naked. This situation and sexual attraction for one another leads to a quick tussle in the sack where they both agree this would only be a sexual thing and not a full fledge relationship. Well, best laid plans and all that and one of the two start to have feelings for the other, though one is in more denial thanks to past experiences.
No Strings Attached isn’t nearly as bad of a film that I had expected, especially one starring Ashton Kutcher who seems to be playing the same character as the one from Valentine’s Day, a dude who likes the nice girl. But what we get instead was a semi-raunchy comedy, in the same vein as Knocked Up in a way, that delves into the rom-com clichés but where others might fail, the jokes and chemistry between Kutcher and Natalie Portman actually works quite well.
Outside of the two main roles, every romantic comedy needs the quirky but funny supporting character or characters. Here we get a wide variety, young and old. Kevin Kline as the father was brilliant casting even if the character didn’t seem all that realistic (but perhaps for California, it is), Cary Elwes has very little to do and I’m a little surprised he would take such a small role (he has maybe 2-3 lines total), Mindy Kaling makes her appearance out of the “The Office” as one of Portman’s sarcastic friends, Lake Bell as Kutcher’s adoring co-worker and Ludacris, yes Ludacris, as one of Kutcher’s best friends who offers him sound advice.
Producer/Director Ivan Reitman’s career has been hit or miss from the enjoyable political romantic comedy Dave and, of course, the classic supernatural comedy Ghost Busters. But his misses also often missed the mark by a mile with flops like Junior, Fathers’ Day (only seen that once a decade ago, but still remember how awful it was), Evolution and My Super Ex-Boyfriend, a film with an interesting premise but terrible execution (not to mention casting). So while his career is pretty ho-hum compared with others of his generation, No Strings Attached shows he still has what it takes to helm a comedy that despite the genre clichés still manages to make it funny.
All in all, No Strings Attached isn’t a particularly memorable film lumped in with the numerous other romantic comedies that have passed my way over the years. However, there are a few funny moments here and there and the pairing of Kutcher and Portman isn’t nearly as awful of a casting choice I thought it would be.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.25/5
Sex Friends: Getting Together (20:45; HD) – This surprisingly lengthy featurette (at least by ‘making-of’ standards) covers the origins of the script and how the movie all came together including Ivan Reitman’s involvement and the casting of Kutcher, Portman and the supporting cast.
Inside the Sassy Halls of Secret High (11:22; HD) covers the fictional show within the movie and the musical numbers, set design and the storyline within this show.
Modern Love: The Dos and Don’ts (8:47; HD) – The cast and crew set up the ground rules of modern relationships – or non-relationships – and the gray areas in between.
Deleted Scenes (11:04; HD) – There are six scenes that were excised I’m sure for time constraints. They’re mostly extended from scenes already in the film and wouldn’t have added anything to the final cut.
Alternate Storylines (3:44; HD) covers two storylines (centered on Adam’s relationship with Lucy) removed from the film entitled “Printer” and “I Can’t Do This”. Again, there’s really nothing remarkable about this set.
The second disc merely contains the movie and digital copy (** Blu-ray Exclusive **); no features and just the basic subtitles and Dolby Digital 5.1 track.
VIDEO – 4.25/5
No Strings Attached comes to Blu-ray (MPEG-4 AVC codec) in its original 2.35 theatrical aspect ratio and 1080p high definition. The picture isn’t overly impressive but on par with other new releases as it’s well detailed throughout – from foreground objects to items or people in the background – while the colors are well balanced without looking pumped up to look good in HD.
AUDIO – 4/5
The disc gets a standard 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track which isn’t anything exceptional but gets the job done. There’s some music inserted in the movie at some key dramatic or comedic moments but the majority is either John Debney’s generic score or dialogue coming through the center channel.
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, No Strings Attached hardly breaks new ground in the romantic comedy genre yet I still found it mostly to be a funny if not charming film. Although Ashton Kutcher doesn’t deviate from what we’ve seen from in other similar movies, he fills in the role of the doting boyfriend wanting more from a relationship and Natalie Portman, coming off of her Oscar winning performance in Black Swan, is more than suitable for the stubborn woman afraid of commitment and the pain that might follow.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2.