Thursday, February 14, 2008

Definitely, Maybe

“I’m going to tell you the story and I’m changing all the names, and I’m not telling you who your Mom is.”
“I like it; it’s like a love story mystery”

On the eve of his divorce Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds) tries to explain love and relationships to his precocious daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin).

Will recounts a bedtime story of his relationships with three women (Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher, Rachel Weisz), one of which is Maya’s mother. Changing names and small facts Maya analyzes her father’s romantic history and tries to guess the identity of her mother, and try to figure out just what’s wrong with her father.

With a premise like that I thought I might be pulling my hair out by the time the film moved into the second act, but although the story is a tad contrived (and at times just too cute for words) it’s balanced by a darn good cast and Reynolds’ ability to find chemistry with each of his leading ladies.

I won’t tell you which of the women is Maya’s mother or which is the woman he is meant to be with, you should be able to guess that on your own. What I will say is the film, even when it gets too cute (like Will’s slow rise on the Bill Clinton Presidential campaign or his disgust at the Monica Lewinsky situation), the film always returns to the heart of the movie which is about a father trying to explain love and life to his daughter who is obviously having trouble with both.

All the leading ladies do well here. Banks is stuck with the blandest character but adds some joy to the role. Weisz seems to be having a ball as “the promiscuous” one, and Fisher lights up the screen when her character comes around. It’s Breslin however who once again shows a natural ability to provide, and steal, many of the film’s best moments. This kid is pretty darn good (hey, she even made No Reservations watchable! - read that review).

With a lesser cast this would have been a lost cause. Don’t get me wrong, the film has its share of rough edges, contrived situations, and at times is so cute you expect the Care Bears to show up for a group hug, but there’s enough here to enjoy. It’s not a film to stay with you, but for an hour or two it will entertain, without getting sappy enough to send you into insulin shock, and allow you to leave the theater with a smile on your face.

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