What's Your Number is yet another regrettable entry in the ongoing Hollywood saga of "When bad movies happen to good people." Pretty much everyone in this movie, from star and executive producer Anna Faris on down to Aziz Ansari in a tiny cameo, is infinitely better than the material, a dull retread over the familiar plight of a single gal unlucky in love but with the perfect guy right there under her nose. This time the laborious plot mechanics come hand-in-hand with a whole lot of slut shaming, as our heroine Ally (Faris) panics to realize she's slept with 20 men in her life, and vows to avoid sleeping with another until she's sure he's The One.
Ally toasts this decision in a bar by shouting "To take control of my own destiny!", with every implication that her destiny means one and only thing: a husband. Ally's recently been fired, and though she's handed one of those improbable movie character secret passions-- in this case, sculpture-- but she never seems to care about anything as much as the ludicrous opinions of women's magazines and her airheady friends, who do insane things like swear no one can find love after sleeping with too many men, or say things like "he's the kind of guy you date before you meet the guy you end up with." Poor Ally, who comes up with clunkers of her own like "How many relationships do I have to have to find right guy?" spends the entire movie aping her idiot friends, trying to live up to the example of her J.Crew-perfect sister (Ari Graynor), and laboriously trying to ignore the advances of her sweet, funny, doting neighbor Colin (Chris Evans). You can probably guess how well that works out.
Everything on the surface of What's Your Number is the same despicable rom-com garbage we've suffered for years, but there's a spark in this movie that suggests somebody cared about it, and my guess is credit goes to Faris. As the executive producer she clearly was able to add in more chances to show off her gifts of physical comedy, and some of the film's silliest and best jokes-- an animated penis, for instance, or Faris's Eliza Doolittle accent-- feel so different from the rest of Gabrielle Allan and Jennifer Crittenden's script that they must have come from somewhere else entirely. And the actors bring occasional spikes of interest in their scenes together, especially Faris and Evans as the inevitable couple you root for just a little anyway, and Faris and Graynor, who dig up a surprisingly believable sisterly dynamic despite the many, many stupid things they're forced to say.
It's sadly pretty common to see forced romantic comedies that belittle their talented casts and demand that their female leads do ridiculous, humiliating things in name of the only thing that matters: finding a man. But because What's Your Number does just a handful of things right, even when pulling off ludicrous stunts like setting a romantic date in an empty basketball arena, it feels all the more painful for being more of the same. Anna Faris has spent years doing a grueling uphill climb through an industry that rarely rewards funny women, and while this is nowhere close to bringing her to the top, it's at least rewarding to see her try once again.
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