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She’s Out of My League takes Tropic Thunder breakout Jay Baruchel and attempts to turn him into a leading man. He’s an unlikely candidate. Baruchel cuts a gangly, awkward figure in front of the camera. Though he first gained attention as the lead in Judd Apatow’s short-lived 2000 college dorm comedy series Undeclared, since then he’s made his way in Hollywood mostly as a character actor, a character actor oft seen playing hopeless nerds. Yet when put front and center, Baruchel kind of works. He’s a leading man more in the mold of Don Knotts than George Clooney, probably better off as a sidekick but fully capable of holding your attention should someone ever remake The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. Baruchel is sympathetic on screen as he flops his way through the movie well-meaning and, even at his worst, impossible to hate. He’s a fit here, in part, because the same could be said of She’s Out of My League.
It’s not a particularly creative script, but like Baruchel it’s affable and at times, entertaining. Jay plays Kirk, a guy with a dead-end airport job and a bunch of dead-end friends. He’s just a dude who drives a beat-up old Neon. He meets a girl named Molly (Alice Eve) who is, let’s face it, way out of his league. His friends peg her as a perfect 10 and him a 5. Those same friends are quick to remind him: you can’t date more than two points above your own rating. So Kirk never tries. Molly has other ideas and inexplicably, she asks him out anyway. They date and Kirk attempts to unravel the mystery of a super hot girl who is in to him for no apparent reason. This leads to the standard assortment of pubic hair shaving and premature ejaculation jokes. You’ve seen them all before, but at least they’re given their own twist here.
What She’s Out of My League does surprisingly well is make Kirk and Molly’s relationship believable. We’ve all seen the Woody Allen movie where the loser, ugly guy gets a girl he has no business dating, for no apparent reason. But here they take that conceit and try to understand it. It works in all the little moments, like the look on Molly’s face as Kirk selflessly chases down a woman who forgot her jacket. It works because of Alice Eve who, beautiful though she is, never really comes across as the supermodel the script has written her as. In a way I suppose she’s miscast. She’s beautiful, but the movie treats her as if she’s Megan Fox when she’s not. It’s more of a happy accident than anything intentional, but the fact that Alice Eve doesn’t really fit the ridiculous, cliché hottie role she’s been thrust into gives Kirk and Molly’s relationship a chemistry the script doesn’t always earn on its own.
In the end of course She’s Out of My League succumbs, all too willingly, to a lot of the little rom-com clichés; but there are moments, moments when it seems to think about becoming something more. And it contains capable character acting. Baruchel is likable as is his assortment of buddies who, while generally generic, are also occasionally funny. Nate Torrence steals scenes as Devon and T.J. Miller seems to be auditioning for a much funnier movie.
She’s Out of My League tries to live in the murky, grey realm between the raunchy stratosphere of Judd Apatow’s movies and the cellar dweller, watered down formula romantic comedies usually populated by Grey’s Anatomy leftovers. It succeeds in finding a level between those rom-com extremes, unfortunately that middle ground is as mediocre as you’d expect it to be. It’s neither as bad as a McDreamy movie nor as edgy and flat out funny as something with Seth Rogen in it. It’s right in between. You’ll find a few laughs, remember the good times, walk away with an abiding love for Jay Baruchel, and then move on hoping he’ll find some better project; all while free of the resentment that normally comes with wasting your hard earned dollars on yet another formulaic rom-com.