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Movie review: 'No Strings Attached': 2 stars

no strings

no strings

No Strings Attached
2 stars
Directed by Ivan Reitman
Starring Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline
Rated R

Oscar pundits are theorizing that “No Strings Attached” might be to Natalie Portman what “Norbit” was to Eddie Murphy — in 2006, Murphy won the Golden Globe for his performance in “Dreamgirls,” but the Oscar eluded him because, some say, of his subsequent role in “Norbit.”

“No Strings Attached” is plagued with bad humor, and you do kind of wonder what Portman was thinking. Still, it’s no “Norbit.” In fact, in the moments when it’s not cringingly bad, it can be a fun romantic comedy with glimmers of resonance. Talk about a schizophrenic script.

Portman plays a medical resident while Ashton Kutcher co-stars as an all-American dude with an assistant’s job on a “Glee”-type TV show. Acquaintances from childhood, they reconnect in later life and become, at her behest, friends with benefits. Allergic to intimacy, she outlines the rules: no cuddling, no jealousy. Just sex.

So when he starts to fall for her, she whines and squirms and patronizes him with diatribes about why she’s not equipped for relationships. Her behavior gets to be quite off-putting, actually, which somehow makes Kutcher more of a romantic for loving her.

From puerile jokes to repetitious arguments, there’s a lot of wrong in this movie. (It also loses points for forcing a female character to whine about her period and binge on donuts in a fit of depression.) Still, there are traces of a fully formed romance buried under all the gunk. Just when you lose respect for the movie over a dead-on-arrival joke, the script delivers a surprisingly spot-on joke or makes an unexpectedly astute observation.

As a romantic comedy (and an Ashton Kutcher movie at that), “No Strings Attached” goes down easy. This is the guilty pleasure that “Love and Other Drugs” should have been.

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