Until recently, most romantic comedies relied on some kind of lie or escapade that keeps the protagonists apart for 80 minutes, no matter how artificial or removed from actual human behavior. The newest batch of Judd Apatow—and Apatow-inspired—comedies instead feature a winning combination of inventively vulgar humor on the surface and earnest sweetness underneath. Even though these movies often involve nerds hooking up with hot chicks, they still focus on characters engaging in a truthful way.
The new She’s Out of My League conjures up some of this goodwill, but it’s also the movie that begins to reveal the inner workings of the formula; the seams start to show. Jay Baruchel (Knocked Up, Tropic Thunder) stars as Kirk, a skinny nerd who lives in Pittsburgh, never finished college, drives a crappy car and works a crappy job for an airline, moving frenzied passengers through airport security. Gorgeous Molly (Eve) passes through his metal detector and leaves her iPhone behind. Kirk retrieves it and wins her gratitude—and a date.
The dramatic friction comes from the clash between Kirk’s nerdiness and Molly’s hotness, and the fact that every other character reaffirms Kirk’s insecurity (whereas Molly seems to genuinely like Kirk). The movie is a bit too frantic, and it transparently inserts some of the “big money” scenes these movies are supposed to have (a premature-ejaculation joke is the centerpiece). However, this is pretty rich battle-of-the-sexes material, and the filmmakers deliver fairly consistent, pleasantly diverting chuckles.