Haven’t there been enough American comedies where a dorky guy meets a “perfect” girl and then romance and comedy ensue? According to She’s Out of My League, which states the premise in its own title, the answer is no. Whether it’s There’s Something About Mary, the American Pie trilogy, or the recent Apatow flicks, the identification that young men have with this type of fantasy narrative guarantees that they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. While She’s Out of My League is clearly working with a tired premise, thanks to a comically neurotic performance by Jay Baruchel and a script with a couple of heavy laughs, it’s kept from being wholly lightweight.
As a first feature film by director Jim Field Smith, there’s a fresh chemistry to the film that probably couldn’t have existed had it been produced by the usual romantic comedy suspects that tend to populate these films. Supporting actors T.J. Miller and Mike Vogel had both starred together in J.J. Abrams’s Cloverfield together, which helps the male friendships be more believable. Co-writers Sean Anders and John Morris both worked on this year’s Hot Tub Time Machine, which featured rapid fire humor and hilariously crass moments as well, albeit with a script that gave greater room to experiment. These prior collaborations, along with a cast of lesser known actors, give the film a more natural feel.
The average Joe here is Kirk Kettner (Baruchel), a Pittsburgh TSA officer with low self-esteem and a lack of ambition. When he’s not trying to get back with his ex-girlfriend Marnie (Lindsay Sloane) who walks all over him and has a better relationship with his quirky family than he does, he’s hanging out with his three close male friends who also work at the airport. There’s Stainer (T.J. Miller), the loudmouth of the group, Devon (Nate Torrence), the married and prudish one, and Jack (Mike Vogel), the most experienced with women. This core guy group is a dynamic we’ve seen in various other films, but these guys are often more caricature than character, which makes it hard to identify with anyone but Kirk.
After leaving her phone at the airport, the beautiful and successful event planner Molly McCleish (Alice Eve) arranges to meet with Kirk after he picks up her phone. Following a series of meetings and interactions, Kirk and Alice develop a relationship. Kirk suffers anxiety over his poor self-esteem as his friends insist that he is a ‘5’ and that Alice is a ‘10’, and the five-point difference would be impossible to maintain. Alice’s friend Patty (Krysten Ritter) insists that because her last boyfriend had mistreated her, Alice is playing it too safe by settling on Kirk simply because he is too weak to hurt her. The resulting tension causes the two to push and pull in a series of funny and at times, touching scenes.
You would be surprised by how much of the rest of the plot you could guess, and that is the biggest problem with the film. While most can relate to the storybook interactions between Kirk and Molly, the entire plot is incredibly predictable to the point of frustration. There are little chances taken, and this lightness brings the film dangerously close to forgettable. Baruchel playing Kirk awkward enough but not too ridiculously is the undeniable highlight of the film, and his busy 2010 (including How to Train Your Dragon and the upcoming The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) is well-deserved after years bouncing around.
While not a breakthrough performance for Alice Eve, she does fine with what her boring character is given to work with, especially in later scenes when things get difficult between the couple. Miller and Torrence deliver the funniest lines from a script that is better than typical, and scenes involving Kirk’s family are a pleasingly dysfunctional look at middle-class America.
The DVD release of She’s Out of My League includes a variety of features that slightly enhance the film. The blooper reel is worth a laugh or two, while the deleted scenes are decent but obviously cut for slowing down the pace. For insight into the production, there’s a commentary track by director Jim Field Smith. An exclusive bonus feature for the set is Devon’s Dating Show, a segment with the characters Devon and Dylan as they give a guide to dating for guys. Torrence is great again as the mild-mannered Devon, but the banter between the two is hit and miss. These are good treats, but a production featurette and interviews with the cast would have been nice.
What keeps She’s Out of My League from losing you is its heart, which may not make up for a predictable narrative or a lack of fleshed-out characters, but does make for a fun and enjoyable romantic comedy. The message may be obvious and quite possibly even an afterthought, but at least it is earnest where other similar films are heavy-handed.