In "The Other Woman," three women wronged by the same man join forces to seek revenge. They are Kate (Leslie Mann), a coddled, clueless wife; Carly (Cameron Diaz), a high-powered but gullible lawyer; and Amber, a young bimbo (Sports Illustrated model Kate Upton). Amber's big idea is a swift knee to the guy's three-timing groin, but Carly has other plans. "I think we're going for something a little bit bigger," she says.
Actually, "The Other Woman" consistently thinks small. Arriving on the heels of female-driven comedies like "Bridesmaids" and "The Heat," it aims to put women front and center, and to upend male chauvinism in the tradition of "9 to 5" or "The First Wives Club." Its heroines will form a sisterhood to vanquish their common foe, the conniving alpha-male Mark King (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, of "Game of Thrones"), but the movie scores only minor points, leaving larger targets untouched.
Directed by Nick Cassavetes ("She's So Lovely") from Melissa Stack's debut screenplay, "The Other Woman" spends a lot of time on mildly zany slapstick (pratfalls, drunken antics) and on prankish sight-gags (female hormones in Mark's smoothies). Its characters, however, never surprise us. Soon after Carly discovers that Mark is married, she starts panting after Kate's brother, Phil (Taylor Kinney). Kate, meanwhile, is the doormat who must learn to assert her independence, though we never actually see her do so. As for Amber, her status as a buxom, brainless mascot suggests that the screenwriter herself may be clinging to a stereotype or two.
Diaz and Mann make for a likable odd couple -- the cynical hottie and the chatty sorority sister -- but "The Other Woman" misses many opportunities for deeper comedic truths. It casts its mistress characters as innocent dupes, instead of as the compromised women more commonly found in the real world, and it never asks what the middle-aged Mark is seeking from his multiple affairs. In this battle-of-the-sexes comedy, neither sex feels very real, which may be why there's so little to laugh about.
PLOT Three women, all wronged by the same man, team up for revenge.
RATING PG-13 (mature thematic material, sexual references and language)
CAST Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.
PLAYING AT Area theaters.
BOTTOM LINE A fine cast in this war-of-the-sexes comedy, but the humor never digs deep.