In addition to a question mark, "How Do You Know" is missing the very things that veteran writer-director-producer James L. Brooks ("Broadcast News") is supposed to bring to the plate, namely snappy dialogue and coherent storytelling.
The story of a world-class female softballer on the rebound - she's just been dumped, by her team - "How Do You Know" defies the unwritten rule that romantic comedies should never run longer than 90 minutes, clocking in at a meandering 116.
If Brooks had cut out all the pointless speechifying and bewildering reaction shots, the film might have been a lean, mean 80 minutes. But the Steroid Era apparently isn't limited to baseball: $50 million of the film's reported $120-million budget was apparently spent on casting, and it doesn't really help when the script is so bush league.
"How Do You Know" never seems to quite know what it's about, although Reese Witherspoon fans will be pleased. As shot by Spielberg regular Januzs Kaminski, Witherspoon looks positively glorious, enough so that it almost argues away the charmlessness of Lisa, who has been cut from the U.S. women's softball team and is trying to refind her foothold in life.
Not really helping are the two human puppies who enter her life at just the right/wrong time - Matty (Owen Wilson), an attractive, goofy, wealthy Major League pitcher with an Irish Setter mentality, and the basset-houndy George (Paul Rudd), who is sweet, decent, oppressed by his father (Jack Nicholson) and about to be indicted on a charge of securities fraud.
Why? No one has a clue until the very end - just part of why the viewer can't engage with a film that tries to get by on long, lingering and often nonsensical close-ups of its stars' faces.