(by Dustin Putman
There is a smart, romantic film hidden deep down in the netherworlds of "She's Out of My League," one that takes the premise of an average Joe who is taken aback when a kind and, yes, beautiful young woman shows interest in him. In this alternately good version of the story, their relationship would be built on actual substance and a genuine connection, their potential conflicts would arise organically out of their personalities and differing interests, and the film would forego insultingly strained plotting and preening, over-the-top caricatures for naturalistic situations and realistic, freshly written characters. The results would be something akin to 1989's lovely "Say Anything" or 2005's adorable, underrated "Fever Pitch." That, alas, is but a pipe dream. In reality, "She's Out of My League" is exactly what the viewer wishes it wasn't—yet another irritating, frustrating, artificial Hollywood product that trades honesty and depth for grade school immaturity and a bunch of lazy, derivative, totally unfunny jokes we've seen a hundred times before involving sexual organs and bodily fluids.
Kirk Kettner (Jay Baruchel) works security alongside buddies Stainer (T.J. Miller), Devon (Nate Torrence) and Jack (Mike Vogel) at Pittsburgh International Airport, biding his time in the hopes that something better might come his way one day. His family at home are unsupportive and abusive, his parents have virtually adopted ex-girlfriend Marnie (Lindsay Sloane), and his wish to one day become a pilot seems all but unreachable. When he meets striking party planner Molly (Alice Eve) in the airport security line and saves her from the harassment of his boss, she is appreciative. When she forgets her phone and he retrieves it for her prior to her flight taking off, it's enough to get him invited to a gala she's fronting at the Andy Warhol Museum. By the time they are enjoying a hockey game together the following night, Kirk comes to the shocking realization that Molly actually likes him. She seems to have no qualms about going out with Kirk—they get along great in various music montages, anyway—but everywhere he turns he is reminded by his friends, relatives and acquaintances that they are a mismatched couple for the simple reason that he is a 5 and she is a "hard 10." Oh, brother.
There is a relatable comment to be made about the looks-obsessed society we live in, where physical beauty equates to one's own self-worth, but "She's Out of My League" is too dim to have anything of note to say on the topic. Instead, there's just a whole lot of talk where characters rate others on a number scale—so much, in fact, that it grows truly obnoxious. Kirk isn't the most fit or handsome guy on the planet, but he's not a dog, either. That Molly initiates a romance with him is treated as some sin against humanity when really all it boils down to is a girl tired of superficial "hunks" who wants a normal, healthy relationship with a nice guy. Kirk's initial feelings of awkwardness when he is with Molly are to be expected, but soon he relaxes and their time spent together signals a promising future for them. Because the laws of the romance genre require there be a falling-out, first-time feature director Jim Field Smith and screenwriters Sean Anders and John Morris (2008's "Sex Drive") hornswoggle two doozies into the action: a misunderstanding involving, of all things, Kirk's premature ejaculation at the moment Molly's parents decide to barge in, and the other dealing with a physical imperfection Molly reveals about herself. That Kirk blows the latter out of proportion and uses it—and her very interest in him—against her makes no sense and only serves to cast him in a negative light. Maybe he doesn't deserve someone like her after all.
Molly, objectified in her opening scene arriving at the airport as the male persuasion slobbers over her, turns out to be so much more than just a pretty girl. She is the sole character in the film written with care, fairness, and few apparent clichés. It is a delight to see someone like her portrayed in a movie—a person who places little worth on conventional beauty and judges others on who they are rather than what they look like. When faced with questioning doubts from others, she remains forthright and undaunted in her beliefs. Molly is played by relative newcomer Alice Eve, and she is a stunner. Charismatic, down-to-earth and immensely likable, Eve deserves a stronger vehicle for her talents. Here she is surrounded by widespread flocks of peckerheads whose job it is to be rendered speechless by her for no reason than because director Jim Field Smith thinks it will be amusing (it's not). His movie may be set in Pennsylvania—and there are some attractive shots in and around Pittsburgh courtesy of cinematographer Jim Denault (2008's "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2")—but by the moronic way the human beings are asked to act it is just as likely to be confused for a different planet in a neighboring galaxy.
As a love story, "She's Out of My League" is slight and underdeveloped, but there is a bit of appeal in the pairing of Alice Eve and Jay Baruchel (2008's "Tropic Thunder") as Molly and Kirk. Eve carries the load, though, whereas Baruchel never quite proves that he has what it takes to be a leading man. As a character actor, he is effective, but there is sadly no star appeal in what Baruchel does here. As a ribald comedy, the film is a total wash. Humor falls into two categories—the mean-spirited and the scatological—and scenes meant to bring the house down, like a stint where Kirk gets male friend Devon to help him shave his scrotum, are just stupid. The supporting characters are unpleasant in the extreme—Molly's gal pal Patty (Krysten Ritter) is abrasive and snooty, Kirk's father and siblings are uncouth nightmares—and don't help matters. The movie only contains a single laugh, and it's an easy sight gag (when Kirk goes on a family vacation, the whole lot of them arrive at the airport wearing tacky yellow T-shirts that read "Branson Bound!"). Lindsay Sloane (2008's "Over Her Dead Body") shows sparks of comic talent as the petty Marnie, who grows jealous only after ex Kirk starts going out with Molly, but she, too, is treated as no more than an exaggerated tool without a genuine bone in her body.
A few fun pop songs and a possible star-making turn from Alice Eve lessen the burden, but "She's Out of My League" remains a big-time stinker any way you look at it. The direction is pedestrian, the script is built on asinine, intelligence-insulting plotting, and the editing (with jump-cuts and continuity errors messing up nearly every scene) is as haphazard as any in recent memory for a studio picture. Reminding one of 2009's "I Love You, Man," an even bigger debacle that also featured an ensemble of insufferable nitwits and few if any funny moments, "She's Out of My League" simultaneously tries too hard and doesn't try at all, mistaking the steps it takes to earn an audience's affections while going aggravatingly overboard. Molly is so far out of everyone's league that she'd be best off in a different movie.