Ivan Reitman's No Strings Attached at least partially reclaims Reitman's reputation as a director, which, for a while, had made "An Ivan Reitman Film" the four scariest words in Hollywood.
Not that No Strings Attached is anything special. In fact, it's thoroughly mediocre - but in a comforting, warm-bath sort of way. The script contains absolutely no surprises and very few workable jokes. Yet the actors are engaging and some of the supporting characters even have funny things to say. And it's actually romantic. More romantic, actually, than comedic - or sexy, despite its R rating (which has to do with dirty talk and subject matter and not, alas, nudity).
Indeed, you get an early sense of just how humor-challenged writer Elizabeth Meriwether is in the very first scene, when the big laugh is supposed to come from a love-starved teen's inept come-on to the one girl who will talk to him: "Would you let me finger you?" Yeah, big laughs there. Fingering - a sure-fire giggle, if you're 13.
The boy is Adam and, when he gets a little older, he's played by Ashton Kutcher. She is Emma and, in grown-up form, she's Natalie Portman. They meet several years later at the University of Michigan, where she is a guest at a drunken frat party of which he seems to be captain of revels. She's in town for "a thing" to which she invites him - and which turns out to be her father's funeral.
A couple years later - really, who can be expected to keep track of this elaborate timeline? - they bump into each other again, this time at an outdoor market in L.A. Now she's in medical school, about to start her residency, and he's a production assistant on a TV show that looks like a mutant version of "High School Musical."
A year later - see? This does go on too long - he finds out that, in fact, the girlfriend who dumped him is now hot-and-heavy with his father (Kevin Kline), star of a popular old TV show who's still known for its catch-phrase title ("Great Scott!"). Crushed, Adam winds up out drinking with his pals (Jake Johnson and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) - and decides to keep drinking while calling every girl in his phone until he can find someone to sleep with him.
He wakes up in the apartment of - you guessed it - Emma and her roommates, Shira (Mindy Kaling) and Patrice (Greta Gerwig). Despite tales of an embarrassing night before (in which he drunkenly danced naked for her but slept with no one), he and Emma end up having quick, enjoyable sex just as she's about to leave for her shift at the hospital - and it sparks something.
But not the same thing for both of them.