“Definitely, Maybe” arrives in theaters just in time for the Valentine’s Day crowd, but - despite its best efforts - this romantic comedy is unable to deliver on the sweet and funny. This is a film that ultimately sounds better than the final project, mainly because the film’s attempt at a payoff left my heart anything but warm.
“Maybe” centers around Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds) and his daughter, Maya (Abigail Breslin). Will and Maya’s mother are about to divorce, causing the 10-year-old to question her father about his life before marriage.
Will reluctantly agrees to tell his daughter how he met her mom and they fell in love, but with a twist. He changes the names of the central characters, leaving Maya to guess which one is her mother.
The potential mom is narrowed to three candidates - Will’s college sweetheart Emily (Elizabeth Banks); Summer (Rachel Weisz), a free-spirited but determined journalist; and April (Isla Fisher), Will’s longtime best friend and confidante.
As Will’s story begins to unfold, Maya helps him see his mistakes and perhaps find a way to secure a happy ending in his current situation.
There is a lot to like about “Maybe.” Fisher is absolutely perfect as April, and Breslin manages to be entertaining in a role that could have easily suffered from the overly cute kid syndrome. It’s also nice to see Kevin Kline in a small role as an eccentric author.
Even some of the film’s flaws are easy to overlook. Reynolds deserves credit for trying to break out of his smarmy, fast-talking, “Van Wilder”-type roles. But for all his effort, he still seems more like a mischievous frat boy than a serious leading man. And I’m not sure if Weisz belongs in this film, but she’s not as out of place as she was in “Fred Claus.” Meanwhile, Banks doesn’t get enough time to develop her character.
But my biggest problem with “Maybe” is the conclusion. Without giving away too much of the plot, it feels like writer/director Adam Brooks was determined that his story wouldn’t have the traditional romantic-comedy wrap-up. So instead of allowing the film to head to its rather obvious conclusion, Brooks keeps putting up roadblocks, which cause the story to spin its wheels and go nowhere.
By the time that conclusion does happen, I no longer cared - I was more concerned with the repercussions of said ending.
Perhaps I’m reading too much into “Definitely, Maybe.” It is a romantic comedy, after all, and there are certainly enough elements in the film that will appeal to the couples crowd it will attract this weekend. It’s just a shame that “Maybe” didn’t trust its material enough to deliver a more satisfying experience.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “American Gangster” (B+) - a highly entertaining crime epic that may feel a little familiar, but succeeds thanks to the star power of its two leads. Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe both tackle their respective roles with gusto and deliver two very entertaining performances.
Based on a true story, “American Gangster” is actually two tales in one - one concerning the rise and fall of a drug dealer, the focused on the fall and eventual rise of an honest-to-a-fault cop.
Washington plays Lucas, a loyal driver for a Harlem gangster who takes over the business after his boss dies. Lucas decides to aim higher than his predecessor and succeeds, building a heroin empire that makes him even more powerful than the mob.
Lucas begins to get noticed - not just by his competition, but by Richie Roberts (Crowe), a squeaky-clean cop hired to run a drug task force. While Roberts may be the perfect cop, the rest of his life is far from it - the detective is in the midst of a messy divorce and barely has time for his son.
Steven Zaillian’s script does an excellent job of fleshing out both characters’ stories, while director Ridley Scott does an effective job of balancing both stories. There is some solid supporting work as well, especially from Josh Brolin as a corrupt cop.
“Gangster” can be criticized for its glamorization of Lucas (as one friend I saw the film with put it, “I wanted him to get away”), but that flaw can be overlooked easily because of the strengths of the film’s two leads.
“American Gangster” is rated R for violence, pervasive drug content and language, nudity and sexuality and will be available on DVD on Tuesday.