What's Your Number? (EX-tended Edition)

I like Anna Farris. I really do. Ever since I first noticed her in the Scary Movie series I’ve thought she was funny, attractive without being Hollywood-pretty, and a decent actress. I wanted to like this movie for Anna. I really did. Ally (Anna Farris) gets fired and, on the train ride home, reads a magazine article that claims the average woman in America has slept with 10.5 men (feel free to use your own dirty joke to explain that point-five). This low number -- in her opinion -- freaks Ally out a bit, and she says so to the woman sitting next to her on the train. And to her sister on the phone. And to their circle of friends at a party. If this sounds a bit repetitive, it’s because the filmmakers are showing their methods early on.

I have to pause just for a moment to make an observation. What's Your Number? actually makes a point of showing us that Ally is writing up a list titled “Guys I’ve Slept With,” just in case the audience couldn’t figure out why she’s making a list of men’s names at this point in the story. (Lots of people make a version of this list, but does anyone actually put a title on it?) Again, this is the level of clumsiness we’re being prepped for, and the film lives up to all this foreshadowing.

Anyway, Ally goes through the apparently painstaking process of writing down everyone she’s ever slept with and comes up with 19 exes. She swears that #20 will be the guy she marries, then gets drunk and sleeps with her ex-boss (Joel McHale). Horrified but refusing to give up, Ally realizes she can keep her oath if she reconnects with one of her exes and marries him (or her, for Scott Pilgrim fans). With the help of her rakish, womanizing neighbor Colin (Chris “I’m an Avenger” Evans), Ally starts tracking down all the guys she’s ever had sex with...and then being reminded why she’s not having sex with them anymore.

What’s Your Number? is a perfect example of a decent idea with horrible execution. The plot’s been shoehorned (and in places sledgehammered) into a standard set of rom-com beats that make for awkward and predictable scenes peppered with weak, inconsistent jokes. Farris and Evans are doing their best, and have great chemistry, but there’s only so long you can tread water when people keep hooking cinderblocks to you.

In this case, “people” would be director Mark Mylod, screenwriters Gabrielle Allan and Jennifer Crittenden, editor Julie Monroe, and probably a few development executives who manage to dodge blame because “producer” is such a vague, meaningless title these days. It’s impossible to pin the blame down, and I wouldn’t want to single anyone out unfairly, but half an hour into this film it’s really clear one of these people -- or possibly a combination of them -- has no idea how to tell a feature-length story. There are character issues, structure issues, time issues, continuity issues, logic issues...the list just goes on and on, and it’s a lot longer than either Ally’s list or the space I’m given here to review this DVD.

It’s damned annoying, because every now and then there will be a great moment between Ally and Colin, or between her and her soon-to-be-married sister (Ari Graynor), and it’ll suddenly be clear that this could’ve been a totally enjoyable film. It’s like a trail of rose petals that you hope will lead to the bedroom, but instead leads you through your home and out the back door, with only a quick glimpse at what you were hoping to get.

Judging from some of the reviews on Amazon, I’d say What’s My Number was a mediocre, predictable chick-lit novel that was turned into a tired, very predictable rom-com. Worse yet, the filmmakers aren’t even sure what kind of rom-com they’re trying to be -- raunchy, goofball, somewhat serious and heartfelt? It’s all over the place.

Seriously, Captain America couldn’t even save this film. There isn’t much in the way of special features on this DVD. It’s not surprising that nobody wanted to do a commentary. There are a few deleted scenes, which were rightfully deleted. The theatrical trailer is included, and -- while I’m normally a fan of that -- after watching the film, it’s kind of amazing how much the trailer gives away. Even for a predictable film.

The “Unrated Extended Cut” is about twenty minutes longer and mildly interesting in that it shows even more bad judgment on the part of the filmmakers. Many of the cut scenes are funnier than the ones that made it to theaters. There’s also a lot of character development for Colin, which makes it clear much earlier on that he’s a decent guy despite his social habits. Plus, a few dangling plot threads and nonsensical moments are a lot more coherent when you see all the stuff that was edited out around them.

If you’re a budding filmmaker, this is a great film to watch as a “what did they do wrong” exercise. Past that, I can’t think of any other reason to get it.