Every comedy, from Shakespeare to screwball, ought to have one scene where almost everybody in the story comes together in the same location for a dogpile of one-liners and pratfalls.
I am delighted to report that “Crazy, Stupid, Love” has a glorious scene just like that, where each new “Oh no you didn’t” revelation is topped by the next development. This is a smart, well-played farce with quite a bit of heart.
It’s also occasionally disconcerting and just slightly creepy around the edges. More on that later.
Married young, Cal (Steve Carell) and Emily (Julianne Moore) are experiencing a mid-life breakup. Things got stale, and Emily had a one-nighter with a co-worker (Kevin Bacon, spot-on) she doesn’t love.
For a while, it looks as though the movie’s going to be about sad-sack Cal getting tutored in the ways of seduction, by an experienced lounge lizard, Jacob (Ryan Gosling, considerably sleeked down from his “Blue Valentine” role).
Those scenes are amusing, and Gosling does an interesting job of suggesting a decent person beneath the slick exterior. In fact, he meets a woman (Emma Stone, from “Easy A”) who might just be the real thing.
Adding another layer (and getting into the slightly creepy area), Cal and Emily’s kids have a 17-year-old babysitter (Analeigh Tipton), a goony-bird romantic with a crush on Cal. Unfortunately, his 13-year-old son (Jonah Bobo) is completely in love with the babysitter, as we learn in a “too much information” kind of way.
All of these folks scurry about in a pleasantly plotted merry-go-round, which is kept humming by directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who did the zany “I Love You Phillip Morris.” By casting Julianne Moore as the estranged wife, they insure the movie has emotional grounding; by casting Carell, they get a go-to guy for comedy.
And unleashing Marisa Tomei in a supporting part adds high spirits just when the movie needs some. That’s a tricky combination: wacky humor and emotional authenticity in equal doses.
Dan Fogelman’s script doesn’t get every beat right, and one of his old-fashioned notions is too much of a throwback: We are constantly reminded that one should “keep fighting” and “never give up” when the object of affection is elusive. That might work out for the movie, but there’d be an awful lot of unwanted advances and borderline stalking cases if everybody took this advice as gospel.
None of which seriously affects the pleasant glow emanating from “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” Its heart is in the right place, which doesn’t always guarantee a good film but which makes this particular one a nice night out.
“Crazy, Stupid, Love”
The romantic merry-go-round that follows the breakup of longtime married couple Steve Carell and Julianne Moore, pleasantly worked out by a strong cast and a good heart. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone supply a parallel flirtation, and some good overlapping story lines come together in a very satisfying way.
Rated: PG-13 for language, subject matter.
Showing: Alderwood, Cinebarre, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Meridian, Metro, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Blue Fox, Cascade Mall.