Crazy Stupid Love is an irresistibly feel-good romantic comedy that’s practically guaranteed to please. What makes this so remarkable is that the movie overcomes obstacles including questionable casting, a pair of maddeningly recurring dialog cliches and an extended ending that ventures well beyond the very big-moment climax.
Steve Carell plays Cal, a boringly conventional dad whose wife of nearly 25 years (Julianne Moore) stuns him by announcing she has been unfaithful and wants a divorce. Cal moves from their beautiful upper-middle-class suburban home to a tiny nondescript apartment. He also begins haunting a hip singles bar, even though he has no clue how to pick up women. What definitely doesn’t attract the opposite sex is loudly proclaiming with bitter resignation that “my wife is having intercourse with someone who is not me.”
Ultra-successful stud Jacob (the scene-stealingly superb Ryan Gosling) takes pity on Cal, mentoring him through a hair-and-wardrobe makeover and teaching him the art of 21st-century seduction. What sounds like yet another Pygmalion riff is redeemed by lounge-lizard Jacob’s cleverly contemptuous cool. He tells Cal that only Steve Jobs is permitted to wear New Balance sneakers, he is disgusted by Cal’s velcro wallet and he says Cal should be “better than the Gap.” Relationship-wise, he informs Cal that men won the battle of the sexes “the second that women started doing pole dancing for exercise.”
Marisa Tomei is hilarious as Cal’s first post-separation conquest, driven wild by Cal’s self-deprecating honesty. Meanwhile, Cal’s 13-year-old son Rob (Jonah Bobo) is obsessed with the very unencouraging Jessica (young Denise Richards lookalike Analeigh Tipton), a 17-year-old who babysits Rob and his younger sister. And Jessica has a secret crush on Cal, who is oblivious to her big-eyed adulation.
Carell’s vaguely robotic persona makes him an odd choice for a role that could have used less shell-shocked detachment and more regular-guy vulnerability. Emma Stone, who appears in a parallel plotline as a law student named Hannah with a jerk for a boyfriend (Josh Groban), presents a different problem. Stone’s face is so exaggeratedly expressive in all of her movies that she seems to be overacting even during those rare times when she’s giving her loudly gawky tomboy act a rest.
Thankfully, Crazy Stupid Love‘s terrific screenplay by Dan Fogelman is so witty and well written that both characters work despite those limitations. The script is so enjoyably engaging, in fact, that it’s grating to hear several uses of what have become a pair of modern-day dialog cliches: “seriously” and “really,” both delivered with sarcastic skepticism. If there aren’t drinking games based on how often those words are heard these days in TV shows and movies, the liquor industry probably wishes there were.
Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, whose last movie was the brazenly brilliant box-office bomb I Love You Phillip Morris, skillfully keep this slick major-studio vehicle from turning into the sort of soullessly phony Nancy Meyers chick flick it could have become. Yes, parts of the plot are sappy, contrived and Hollywood hokey, but in a way that’s strangely endearing instead of off-putting. It’s the difference between a cardboard-crust frozen pizza and a freshly made pie with the works.
Chances are stupidly good that you’ll love it like crazy.