Anna Faris is the almost-It Girl, a wide-eyed clown in the mode of Goldie Hawn or Judy Holiday, superficially ditzy but with genuine wit and sex appeal. Almost everyone who talks or writes about her seems to like her, and thinks she deserves a higher profile than the crummy roles she's played in such bottom-feeder comedies as Scary Movie, The House Bunny and The Hot Chick.
What's Your Number?, in which Faris stars and serves as executive producer, has been touted as a potential breakout film that does justice to her comic skills. In the movie, directed by Mark Mylod ( Shameless, Entourage), Faris plays Ally Darling, a woman in her early 30s who reads an article in Marie Claire magazine that says women who have slept with more than 20 men are likely to stay single. Since she has almost hit that magic number, Ally decides to review her past lovers to see if she can rediscover Mr. Right.
Last April, The New Yorker offered a profile of Faris in the context of the prejudices and hurdles against making an R-Rated comedy with a female lead. The article, written before the raunchy Bridesmaids became a hit, presents an usually bald version of Hollywood cynicism, with studios seeking the comedy kill-zone between titillation and offence.
As it happens, apart from the use of relatively clinical words like "douche," "vagina" and "penis," What's Your Number? is only disturbing in its painful predictability.
Based on Karyn Bosnak's novel Twenty Times a Lady, the script by TV writers Jennifer Crittenden and Gabrielle Allan fits the rom-com formula, portraying Ally as a sweet and vulnerable mess. Ditched by her boyfriend and fired from her job in the opening reel, she gets bombed at her sister's bridal shower, gets bombed again, and ends up accidentally adding to her lifetime sex score.
Convinced that her problem is promiscuity, and not the more obvious alcoholism, she begins to retrace her romantic steps to find out which former boyfriend might be marriage material.
First, though, the film short circuits its own premise by introducing her across-the-hall neighbour Colin (Captain America's Chris Evans). He's a cocky womanizing musician with hot abs and a convenient talent for sleuthing learned from his detective dad.
In exchange for letting him use Ally's apartment to hide out from his nightly hook-ups, he'll help her track down her exes. Her past boyfriends (Chris Pratt, Martin Freeman, Andy Samberg, Anthony Mackie, Zachary Quinto, Joel McHale) are each worth about one snicker.
When that storyline runs out of steam, the second act pairs her with a dull tycoon (Dave Annable), who pleases Ally's blueblood mother (a shrill Blythe Danner) and puts Ally on par with her younger sister (Ari Graynor), whose wedding is imminent.
Ed Begley Jr. appears briefly as the free-spirited dad. But the supporting cast seems less a part of a story than the movie's built-in audience for repeated scenes in which Faris' character takes the spotlight, does something embarrassing, compounds it with something more embarrassing, and blusters irrepressibly through it all.
She's funny, yes, but is this an achievement or a rut? Once again Anna Faris manages to be the best thing in another not very good Anna Faris movie.
What's Your Number?
- Directed by Mark Mylod
- Written by Jennifer Crittenden and Gabrielle Allan
- Starring Anna Faris and Chris Evans
- Classification: 14A