“No Strings Attached:” Ashton Kutcher’s latest comedy offers comical peek into friends with benefits

January 27th, 2011

Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy recaptures girl. That’s the all-too-familiar plot of romantic comedies, going back to the classic movies of actors like Cary Grant. 

While Director Ivan Reitman’s “No Strings Attached” is typical of what you expected – it is a surprisingly entertaining comedy.

“People aren’t meant to be together, together,” teen Emma tells teen Adam when they first meet each other. 

Fifteen years later, Adam (Ashton Kutcher) and Emma (Natalie Portman) meet again. 

Emma is a doctor who doesn’t believe in lasting love or relationships. Adam is an assistant screenwriter for a “Glee”-like show who has just lost his girlfriend to his druggie movie star father (Kevin Kline). 

In pure distaste for past relationships, Adam and Emma decide to go into an intimacy-only relationship which consists of late-night calls and nooners. 

But when Adam begins to want something more, Emma must evolve from her fear of love and choose what’s important to her.

Believe it or not, the film isn’t as raunchy as it sounds. Actually, it’s endearing. As you’d expect from the trailer, the film is quite sexual. 

Yes, the word “sex” is mentioned close to 80 times. Yes, the film is about a man and a woman who decide that they want to skip the pains of relationships and go right to the       “good stuff.” But these scenes aren’t what the film is about.

Reitman (“Ghostbusters” and “Kindergarten Cop”) doesn’t seem to be at the top of his game here but never falls into the trap of tastelessness that many comedy directors fall prey to.

While the film is at times hilarious, it is not “When Harry Met Sally” hilarious. It misses the intricacies of the real relationship humor of those films. 

It’s likable enough, yet it doesn’t have a plot or characters with enough depth to make it anything special. 

The two stars are an unusual pairing. Right off her Golden Globe award-winning stint in “Black Swan,” Natalie Portman here takes a turn that makes loyal fans scratch their heads in bewilderment. This may seem like a film worthy of Kutcher, but not her. 

Even worse, both actors are better than the cardboard cutout roles given to them by the writers. 

They don’t have personalities. 

Heck, they don’t even have character traits. They just exist to move the plot along.

We understand Adam is likable and that Emma is a workaholic. That’s about it. 

Still, while it may not contain the vivid characterization or witty banter of “When Harry Met Sally,” it is definitely more amiable than 75 percent of the romantic comedies I’ve seen over the years. 

Even so, it can’t escape its limited and unsurprising genre.

But then, I doubt anyone will see this film expecting it to offer groundbreaking emotional truths about love. 

What it does offer is a relatively enjoyable comedy about two people who think they can enjoy the fruits of a relationship without any of the accompanied responsibility.

“No Strings Attached” is not a great comedy. It won’t be remembered in a couple years. 

But still, it’s good in that it is not idiotic or juvenile about the topic of love and relationships.