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Review: 'He's Just Not That Into You'

How to read the signals of the opposite sex – or not, as this romantic comedy demonstrates.

By Peter RainerFilm critic of The Christian Science Monitor / February 7, 2009

Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Aniston, and Jennifer Connelly star in He's Just Not That Into You.

Courtesy of New Line Cinema

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A catchphrase doesn't often turn into a movie, but that's exactly what happened with "He's Just Not That Into You." Technically, those six words, first uttered in an episode of the TV show "Sex and the City," morphed into a bestselling dating guide before becoming a movie. But however you size it up, the film is essentially an excuse to tap into the burgeoning market for retro romantic comedy – represented, most recently, by the "Sex and the City" movie and "Bride Wars."

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Its patchwork quality can be traced directly to its patchwork origins. Interlocked relationships between guys and gals are schematically arranged around a central concept: The opposite sexes don't have a clue how to read each other's dating signals. The proliferation of Facebook and MySpace and a gajillion other online portals has only further complicated a mating ritual that was already impenetrable from the dawn of civilization.

To illustrate this point, director Ken Kwapis and his screenwriters Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein have assembled an assortment pack of romantic malcontents. Needy, clueless Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin) is hung up on real estate agent Conor (Kevin Connelly), who only has eyes for his sometime squeeze Anna (Scarlett Johansson), who pines for the sorely tempted Ben (Bradley Cooper), whose marriage to Janine (Jennifer Connelly) is on the rocks. She works in the same office as Gigi and Beth (Jennifer Aniston), who is desperate to tie the knot with her longtime live-in boyfriend Neil (Ben Affleck).

Have I left anybody out? Oh yes, Drew Barrymore's lovelorn Mary, who can't seem to get past the cyberdating stage and dispenses handy marriage-busting advice to Anna. And then there's Alex (Justin Long), a friend of Conor's, who tips off Gigi about how to avoid men like him.

I suppose it's a good thing that this movie has so many crisscrossing subplots. If one gaggle of whiners gets on your nerves, rest assured the scenery will soon change and another will take center stage. The only really choice bits were the occasional interspersed minimonologues by some very funny nonstar performers recounting their dating disasters. (Especially good is Nicole Steinwedell, who rants about how men are always bailing on relationships by using the "no spark" ploy.)

The film is at its most tolerable when zeroing in on the woes of women. The actresses all seem to be acting out of their own pent-up personal experience, whereas the actors, for the most part, are stiffs. Although the film is called "He's Just Not That Into You," Kwapis tries to balance out the equation by including an equal number of dumped guys, but the ploy is halfhearted. This is a movie for people who can't get enough of "Sex and the City" and are willing to settle for clones. Grade: C+ (Rated PG-13 for sexual content and brief strong language.)

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