Jack Nicholson won two of his three Oscars under the directorial gaze of James L Brooks (Terms Of Endearment in 1984 and As
Good As It Gets in 1994) , so seeing them together again on the same
bill piques a little bit of interest even if the instantly forgettable
title doesn’t. Unfortunately, Jack’s given very little to do and the
rest of How Do You Know’s cast fail to inject any charm into a
soporifically dull script.
It centres on Lisa (Witherspoon), the popular and feisty star
the USA women’s softball team. When she’s unexpectedly dropped from the
squad, she has to re-prioritise her life and becomes reluctantly caught
in a love-triangle with narcissistic womanizing professional baseball
player Matty (Wilson) and George (Rudd), a nice-guy banker who is nevertheless being wrongfully indicted for fraud.
How Do You Know simply isn’t funny. Every scene goes on for
far too long and continues long after any momentum has passed (if there
was any in the first place). None of the characters are believable and
the dialogue is so stiff that the film lacks any kind of emotional punch
come the conclusion. Not that any character gets to utter more than a
few lines without being interrupted by a phone call; everyone spends
more time with a handset glued to the ear hole than Colin Farrell did in Phone Booth.
This adds up to a bladder-challenging two hour movie which is at least
half an hour too long by the rom-com stopwatch, especially when the
laughs are spread so thin.
Credit where credit’s due though and Owen Wilson’s character does elicit a few laughs,
even if his oblivious himbo schtick is decidedly one-note and
Witherspoon tries hard even if she’s given little to work with.
Elsewhere, Paul Rudd is his usual likable self but his passiveness comes
across more as wet and irritating than endearing or cute. In fact, I’m
starting to worry about Rudd – likable as he is, he’s in danger of
wearing out his welcome if he continues with his recent string of
appalling movies (2009’s Year One and 2010’s catatonically awful Dinner For Schmucks).
When Jack does make an appearance, it’s as George’s unscrupulous
banker father. It’s a good role for Nicholson whose shark-like grin
always gives the impression that he’s gotten away with something
despicable but he’s given very little screen time and so barely gets
into his groove.
How Do You Know is a poorly written and terribly paced rom-com with none of the zip and sparkle that you’d expect from a cast of this calibre.
It reportedly cost $120 million, a staggering amount for a romantic
comedy and grossed $7.6 million on its opening weekend making it one of
the biggest flops in recent memory. It seems that the American viewing public have already voted with their wallets and I’d urge you to do the same. Avoid.