Thursday, December 16, 2010

A comic gurgle from James L. Brooks

This one's pretty much inert from from the jump.
It's difficult to watch How Do You Know, the latest comic effort from director James L. Brooks, without thinking about the ways in which the mighty have fallen. Brooks, who hails from the world of television, made major big-screen marks in the '80s with Terms of Endearment and Broadcast News. He hasn't done much since -- and what he has done hasn't been terrific. (Brooks enjoyed a mild success in 1997 with As Good As It Gets, but faltered with Spanglish in 2004.) This time, Brooks tells the story of a female jock (Reese Witherspoon) who starts an affair with a professional baseball player (Owen Wilson) after she fails to make the U.S. Olympic softball team. A love triangle takes shape when Witherspoon's Lisa meets a troubled executive (Paul Rudd) who's on the verge of being indicted for ill-defined shenanigans wrought by a company headed by his father (Jack Nicholson). Inert from its earliest scenes, How Do You Know never really finds its rhythm. An occasional line of amusing dialog falls from Brooks' script like a scrap toppling from a wobbly table, but there's not much else to commend How Do You Know. Witherspoon shows some spark; Wilson tries his best to breathe comic life into the role of an insensitive jock; and Rudd works at being likable. Nicholson? For once, there's hardly anything to say. More predictable than punchy, How Do You Know looks to do a fast fade during a holiday season with bigger and better attractions.

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