*She's Out of My League (R)
Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Hollywood Interquest, Tinseltown
For decades, it seemed cinematic comedy had become the domain of the one-man show. She's Out of My League arrives to continue a more appealing and hilarious recent transition: the return of the ensemble comedy.
It shouldn't have taken so long to figure out that the formula was worth pursuing. In the 1970s, Mel Brooks turned out classic flicks packed with talented performers like Madeline Kahn, Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman; on TV, the most beloved sitcoms — Mary Tyler Moore, Cheers, The Simpsons, Seinfeld, etc. — have been built around comedic teamwork. But in the '80s and '90s, Hollywood became obsessed with the cult of the star, building vehicles around comedians like Eddie Murphy, Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler and leaving little space for others to be funny. It took raucous comedies from Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up) and the Will Ferrell/Adam McKay team (Anchorman, Talladega Nights) to make ensemble comedy cool again.
She's Out of My League has a familiar nerd-plus-hottie set-up, focusing on an airport security officer named Kirk Kettner (Jay Baruchel) who's still mooning over Marnie, the girl who dumped him two years earlier. He's a decent guy, but kind of a scrawny, ambition-free dweeb — which makes it amazingly improbable that a head-turning blonde like Molly (Alice Eve) would pursue him. There has to be a catch, Kirk and his friends assume.
She's Out of My League isn't about merely riding that odd-couple premise into the ground. Instead, it seems as though it's about determining how much unabashed crudity you can slip through an R-rating, building set pieces — and at times wonderful, repulsively funny ones — around topics such as premature ejaculation and pubic shaving.
But part of what makes this film so surprisingly funny is that it doesn't rely on one comedic approach. Much of that variety can be credited to director Jim Field Smith, a British sketch-comedy veteran who squeezes every laugh possible out of the script by Sean Anders and John Morris, and a terrific cast.
T.J. Miller gets prime material as Kirk's intense, insult-flinging, best friend Stainer. Nate Torrence is Kirk's married pal Devon, who rhapsodically compares Kirk's life to Disney movies. In fact, the supporting cast doesn't include a single weak link — from Lindsay Sloane's preening she-devil Marnie to Jasika Nicole (as Molly's tart-tongued business partner) to Kyle Bornheimer (as Kirk's lunk-headed brother).
If there is a weak link, it may be the central story line. Baruchel's an appealing performer, but his sensitive schlub doesn't really kick scenes into high gear, and Eve has little to do besides look spectacular. The screenplay does a serviceable job of explaining how their relationship happens, but that's not the same as giving us a reason to care whether they end up together.
It's fortunate, then, that you'll likely be too busy laughing to worry about happily-ever-after details. That's one of the benefits of ensemble comedy, and why many of them feel more satisfying than the sum of their jokes.
She's Out of My League offers a slightly different flavor every few minutes so that you're bound to find something, eventually, that's just your style.
The striking colors and textures are reminiscent of Southern Colorado and New Mexico. Lovely work.