Posted on Sunday, February 17th, 2008 by Zach Lawrence
Ryan Reynolds’s star has not blazed into the sky yet. Sure, he has made numerous attempts and coasted around orbit before burning out into a falling star back to earth, but his rise has not stuck. It’s starring vehicles like Definitely Maybe that stunt his growth as an actor, he is unable to unleash his dry, witty lashbacks and deadpan grace upon us. In the recent past he has done well, in my opinion with some light fluff like Just Friends, which is good, and PG-13′d him into his vulgar- less brilliance. He took on the task of working with an amazing ensemble in Smokin’ Aces with great success holding his own with the great Ray Liotta, Andy Garcia, Affleck, and Common…That last part was a joke… But all he got to really do was scream “Come on!” and “Goddamn it!” I believe he works best in comedy where he can unleash his talent in the fashion he is best conditioned to.
This brings us to Definitely Maybe. He doesn’t get to use any of his chops that we have grown accustomed to here in this flick and we are worse off for it. Now here is my conundrum as a reviewer. I’ve had two days to think of what to say and I’ve decided to be honest, I’m not sure what genre this movie falls into after having seen it. It wasn’t laugh out loud funny. It wasn’t very romantic. And to top it all off it wasn’t very dramatic. We have Reynolds, a single dad, who gets two days a week with his daughter, the new “IT” girl, Dakota Breslin…I mean Abigail. She wants to know the story of how her parents met after a class in Sex Ed and whether or not she was an accident or not. So because Reynolds wants to make a game out of it for some reason, (She doesn’t want to go bed, and to shut her up he tells a 9 hour story) we have Breslin with a checklist playing CLUE with her dad to find out in his past, which serious lover her mom is. Because he must change the names so she can figure it out on her own.
Now we flashback to I believe 1992 and a young and ambitious Reynolds is leaving his hometown sweety for NY city to work for the Clinton Campaign (Which in turn happens to be a little funny, all in it’s own just for the nostalgic old time footage), and his girl, Elisabeth Banks doing well for herself since Wet Hot American Summer, says he’ll forget about her. So for two months he is away and along the way runs into Isla Fisher Baron Cohen as the copy girl, and they have chemistry but nothing to bind them. She’s the free spirit and they stay BFF throughout his adult life. A little side story was that Banks wanted Reynolds to deliver a secret diary to Rachel Weisz who is dating the hilarious Kevin Kline, but somehow and for no reason, she kisses Reynolds a minute and half after their meeting while Kline is sleeping on the couch.
So you see my problem. I try to be eloquent and gentlemanly about most things, but, well, “Clusterfuck” is the best word to describe this movie. Breslin, who has grown since Little Miss Sunshine into a formidable actress and who can hold her own with the adults, marks off her checklist of possible women her mother could’ve been and is as confused as the audience was. I believe the film works best when it’s just Reynolds and Breslin working together and I wish there was more of it in the film. It gave it a sweet touch that Reynolds has not yet tapped and their awkward father-daughter moments (regarding “What’s a Threesome?”) are the best ones. So during the flashbacks, we have to keep guessing who’s it gonna be?
When you finally find out, you just don’t really care. Because well, the guessing leaves you exhausted by the end, and there was no real developmental work on any of the relationships for more than brief, flitting moments from time to time anyway. Ryan Reynolds is great in his raunchy element like Van Wilder or Waiting, where he can be free to be dirty in his stylishly, martini dry way. Everyone here in the cast succeeds to act decently enough to get the job done. However the story and script is their undoing. It doesn’t give them enough to delve into and although they take what they can get, the only real winners here are Reynolds and Breslin.
This movie is not a bad movie. Nor is it great. It’s kind of a nothing flick, like cinematic purgatory, where you are awaiting some sort of redemption that does not arrive until the final two minutes. No spoiler, it’s just a warning that that’s how long the payoff is into this film. Didn’t love it, didn’t hate, and just liked it Ok. I give it and average 5/10. Ryan Reynolds will explode someday, and while he is comedic gold, he just hasn’t blown supernova yet into his own star.