Stars: ** 1/2
Rating: PG-13 for language and sexual situations
Run Time: 2 hours, 7 minutes
Is he into you or not? That’s the perennial question nagging this pithy romantic comedy that keeps its troubles airy and close to the surface.
A cast of familiar faces pepper the action, each with his or her own cross to bear in the dating game. Beth (Jennifer Aniston) is a long-suffering live-in who wants a ring, but isn’t getting it, from dependable Neil (Ben Affleck), who doesn’t believe in that particular kind of “I Do”.
Neil pals around with Ben (Bradley Cooper) who’s making a play for ingénue singer Anna (Scarlett Johannson) while also remodeling a duplex with college sweetheart cum spouse Janine (Jennifer Connelly).
The saga’s crux is the quixotic life and times of Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin), a hopeless idealist who starts taking tips from playboy bar owner Alex (Justin Long --far more than a Mac pitchman) once his buddy Conor (cute as a button Kevin Connolly) turns a blind eye.
The girls offer all kinds of excuses for the calls that never come (“he’s afraid of your emotional maturity”, “he lost your number”) while the guys cut to the chase – is he doesn’t call back he’s just not that into you.
The romantic roundelay winds a wiggly path to its inevitable non-conclusion, peppered with amusing tenets of the dating game and humor both stale and smart. A string of newcomers offer dos and don’ts for how to play it; know if you’re being dumped, surefire signs that there’s no future and the like. Add to that the lingering lament of juggling contemporary technology (Text to his phone? Message on Facebook or MySpace his blackberry?) and you’ve got yourself a thoroughly modern mix.
Based on the best-selling relationship book of the same name “Just Not Into You” tangles it’s large cast of characters and storylines into virtual knots then tries to unravel them with advice swapping and a kind of misery-loves-company pleasure. An if-beautiful-people-aren’t-working-it- no wonder-I’m-suffering-too kind of vibe.
More six degrees of separation than ensemble there are nonetheless some shining stars. Goodwin is a keeper, a surprising spark amidst the bountiful bevy of A-listers. She carries the film on her slight shoulders with vivacious charm and a never-say-die essence that’s infectious from start to finish. Her pitch is sassy (“I’m on the precipice of staging a casual drive-by”) and she so believes in love that you’re hard pressed not to believe along with her.