A woman scandalized by her own sexual past decides to revisit her exes to see if there were any good ones she prematurely tossed in What’s Your Number?, which is more or less that not-quite-getting-it female raunchy comedy we were destined to see after Bridesmaids.
Now, obviously, this wasn’t made after Bridesmaids, but I feel it’s trying to channel the same spirit of genuinely funny, wonderfully dirty female-friendly comedy but with more of a romantic core this time.
Trying and failing.
Ally Darling (Anna Faris) is having a bad day — first she gets dumped by a boyfriend she doesn’t even appear particularly fond of, then she gets fired from a job she didn’t even like all that much by a boss who is a bit of weird sleaze (Joel McHale) and then she reads in Marie Claire that her lifetime number of sexual partners (19) puts her at nearly twice the average of American women. (Side note: Read another way, is Ally actually having a great day?) According to the article, this makes her less likely to find a husband. And all this comes just as she’s heading to an engagement party for her younger sister Daisy (Ari Graynor). Ally vows not to sleep with 20 until she’s sure he’s the man she wants to end up with.
And then she promptly gets drunk and wakes up next to her former boss with whom she’s been indifferently flirting earlier in the evening.
Though he seems to like her, Ally wants him and the mistake he represents out of her apartment as fast as possible. Luckily, neighbor Colin (Chris Evans) shows up needing some help and Ally is able to get rid of the boss swiftly. Which is when she realizes that the help Colin needs is of a similar nature — namely skipping out on the woman who is in his apartment. At first Ally thinks this is sleazy (yes) but then she sees the possibility for a trade. Since Colin has some investigative abilities, she gets him to track down all of her ex-boyfriends. That way, she can see if one of them has turned out better than he was when they broke up — a thought that first came to her when she ran in to Donald (Chris Pratt), an old boyfriend who has since lost oodles of weight and acquired a hot fiancee. This way, maybe she can find a The One without increasing her number of Not The Ones. In exchange, she’ll let Colin hide out in her apartment when he needs to escape a one-night stand.
Thus she finds herself running through a variety of former bed buddies — including a puppeteer, a magician, a would-be politician who thinks she would make an excellent beard — in search of one who got away that she might want back. Naturally, this being that kind of story, she and Colin quickly move from simply two parties in a business arrangement to friends to possibly something more.
In a way, Ally’s nutty behavior could be considered as coming from a similar place as the Kristen Wiig character in Bridesmaids. Wiig was freaking out about losing her best friend to marriage and a new life. Ally is watching her younger sister achieve a life milestone that she hasn’t yet. At least, I prefer to think that’s what we’re supposed to read into this; not that a character we’re supposed to like has actually decided to upend her life because of a Marie Claire article. As Colin observes (and we get hints of in flashbacks), Ally does seem to be a bit of a pleaser — remaking herself to fit the new guy and then sticking with it long after she’s lost real interest in him. So it’s also believable that someone so inclined would wonder if her problem is that she didn’t stick with them long enough. But as she ticks these exes off her list, it seems obvious that she did, in fact, squeeze every bit of life out of these relationships. Instead of gaining some kind of insight from that or starting to wonder what had her liking these guys with some obvious flaws in the first place, Ally mindlessly doubles down on her crazy little project. And then, when she meets a guy she starts to click with, she responds in a way not at all consistent with her character — she doesn’t jump in but later turns one small conflict into the standard rom-com overblown fight that always breaks up the main couple so we can get those 20 sad minutes where they’re apart followed by a chase of some kind and a big declaration. (And if you feel like I’m spoiling this for you, well let me apologize on behalf of movies for that fact that this is the first romantic comedy you decided to see after leaving the cave where you were living with your wolf-family for all these years.)
This character is maybe 15 minutes of a 30-something smart-girl character, one still figuring out life but with personality and intelligence — one not unlike the various sitcom girls who have become popular in the last few years. But for the rest of the movie, she’s a stock romantic-comedy victim, a heroine whose actions only make sense as part of the movie’s formula, not as actions of a real person. In particular, the “fight” that Ally has with Colin would be, in any half-decent TV show, the point at which the characters realized they liked each other and actually started to address that fact with each other.
The movie has its occasional laugh and along with Faris’ natural comic abilities and the talents of at least one of its screenplay writers (Jennifer Crittenden’s credits include writing for The New Adventures of Old Christine, Seinfeld and The Simpsons) What’s Your Number? had some potential to be, if not great, than certainly an above-average 106 minutes of entertainment. Instead, it’s your standard romantic comedy mess. C-
Rated R for sexual content and language. Directed by Mark Mylod with a screenplay by Gabrielle Allen and Jennifer Crittenden (from the novel 20 Times a Lady by Karyn Bosnak), What’s Your Number? is an hour and 46 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by 20th Century Fox.