The premise of the new Anna Farris rom-com What’s Your Number? is pretty easy to loathe. Farris plays Ally, a wayward single woman with job troubles, whose sister is about to get married and tends to get drunk without much encouragement. She’s the female equivalent of a man-child; a woman-child if you will. She’s also had sex with twenty men in her life, which according “Marie Claire” is the limit of partners is allowed before turning into an some sort of only-in-the-movies tramp that men will refuse to marry. As such, Ally’s only option for a husband is one of the previous bed-buddies.
This premise, courtesy of screenwriters Gabrielle Allan and Jennifer Crittenden and based on a novel by Karyn Bosnak, could provide its share of laughs if it decided to be lampoonish. Unfortunately, the script and the direction by Mark Mylod wants to be too many things. The clash is over a goofy comedy about a boy-crazy girl – as regressive as that may be – and a sweet blossoming romance between neighbors, with Chris Evans’ Colin as the fella. Number never properly settles into either, and its insistence on trycramming these together hurts each half.
When the movie goes bizarre with Farris it clicks. Colin comes from a family of cops and knows how to track down people with ease. He provides the contact info to Farris’ Ally and the initial meetings are amusing. She grabs a drink with an ex from Britain and apparently their whole relationship occurred with her pretending to have an English accent; one that increasingly is slipping after being reunited. The memory of her first-time is thoroughly out-there, including a spectacled doofus and a puppet. Farris plays these broader, odder beats well; eyes widening with discomfort and longing for a way out.
She’s also quite fun to watch with Evans, whose always dependable. His warm, relaxed presence allows their banter to bounce off with a natural flow. The same can’t be said of the storytelling that goes with their interactions; hand-cranked and obvious. Colin sleeps with basically any woman he finds, lies to them and lays around on the couch talking about his failed-band; yet he’s possible husband material. Despite Evans efforts, which go a long way, it’s simply not believable that such a cad-character would think of flipping so easily into an honest, great guy. Thus, when the back-half of the movie kicks into gear and the will-they, won’t-they section moves forward, Number stumbles.
It’s never terrible, the leads and a supporting cast that features good work by Ari Graynor (please give this woman twelve leading roles society), Chris Pratt and Martin Freeman keeps it afloat. Nevertheless, the laughs die off and the heart isn’t properly developed to be worth caring about.
What’s Your Number? opens wide in Seattle today.