Last time anyone checked, The Bible didn’t state that the “geek” would inherit the Earth. Yet when it comes to comedy’s current cyclical nature, the dork is the dreamboat while the loser is the lynchpin for every possible punchline. We have gone from jocks going gross-out to garner a laugh or two to feebs feeling marginalized by a society that embraces their smarts but balks at their bodies. While we are still striving to find a balance between the hotness and the guy/gal with the good personality hook-up, movies make the case for love conquering all – or at the very least, conquering romantic comedy expectations. Such is the case with the innocuous if inventive She’s Out of My League. Instead of the wimp washing out, he gets a chance at the girl. What happens next both entertains and aggravates.
Uber-nerd Kirk (Jay Baruchel) works airport security in Philadelphia along with good friends and roommates Stainer (T.J. Miller), Devon (Nate Torrence) and Jack (Mike Vogel). When an incredibly sexy party planner named Molly (Alice Eve) accidentally leaves her IPhone at his checkpoint, our unlucky in love lead rescues it and saves the day. She thanks him with a trip to a hockey game. Soon, the two are dating, though everyone thinks that Molly is merely using Kirk as a cushion. She’s recently broken up with an arrogant pilot named Cam (Geoff Stults) and needs someone nice and non-threatening to hang out with. His friends, family, and flighty ex Marnie (Lindsay Sloane) just can’t fathom why a girl so far out of his league would want Kirk around. As the couple struggles to make this unconventional relationship work, they soon realize that it might be their own flaws, not the pronouncements of others, that doom their chances.
If you combined Knocked Up with There’s Something About Mary and merged both into the scatterbrained strategies of Sex Drive writers Sean Anders and John Morris, you’d have some idea of how oddly disjointed yet ultimately satisfying She’s Our of My League is. Sure, the storyline is so pie in the sky that bakers are getting vertigo, and no amount of fulfilled wishes can envision a pouty pencil necked dweeb hooking up with the latest version of Maxim’s masturbatory definition of beauty. Still, British director Jim Field Smith does his best to keep things from going completely cartoony, even if his scribes give him little except the post-millennial version of the standard stereotyping. When it flows, it’s fun. When it flops around, it’s frustrating.
One of the main reasons it does work is because Kirk and Molly are genuinely good people. They mean well, treat almost everyone with a modicum of decency and respect, and open up about their feelings and faults in ways few characters in the modern RomCom can. Instead of being constantly cutesy and cloying, they dig deep – and frequently come up with some telling interpersonal treasure. It also helps that everyone else around them are assholes. Kirk’s parents are major league jerks. His boneheaded joke of a brother is a tool and our heroes circle of friends run the gamut from wuss (married man Devon) to angry and sulfuric acid tongued (Stainer). She is trapped with a dark hard critical Goth gal pal (Patty) and relatives who want less sentiment and more social climbing.
Surrounded by such spuds, we can’t help but cheer for our charming couple – and She’s Out of Our League usually makes it a relatively easy emotion to maintain. Sure, we get sidetracked early and often by music montages meant to signify elongated episodes of non-erotic male bonding, and Kirk and Molly have one too many indie-pop tinged moonlight walks to effectively signify the passage of personal time. There’s also a few farcical attempts at bad taste that would make John Waters wince in “what have I done” despair. These wild-eyed water cooler moments, these skuzzy sight gags as schoolyard bragging rights do little except explain how Anders and Morris got their screenplay greenlit. Unlike Apatow, who keeps his scatology on the decidedly spoken side of things, the sophomoric stunts here all but stand up and shout their intentions. We are meant to groan and gasp. How that helps out lovebirds is another issue all together.
Indeed, much of She’s Out of My League seems at cross purposes with the central relationship. Instead of plot convolutions – the kind that this genre wantonly wallows in – this movie wants to make its characters the core concern. Yet every time we get to a moment of clarity or personal openness, the writers aim for the genitals and make a joke. Certainly they are only playing into the audience’s arrested adolescent expectations, but it would be nice for once to see smart, successful individuals (and Kirk and Molly clearly are) who can get by without having to rely on dick, semen, and testicle wit. There’s a (500) Days of Summer feel to this film that is constantly countermanded by men discussing their dingleberries.
And yet, thanks to the warm and inviting style of both Baruchel and Eve, the slight if solid supporting work from the rest of the caricaturish company, and a heavy dose of ‘could never happen but it’s nice to see it” sentiment, She’s Out of My League lingers. It’s rare when a movie wants to champion the decent and demean the smug and smarmy. It’s also infrequent that this storyline lets the genuine triumph over the joke. Inside Kirk and Molly impossible relationship, within their obvious affection and special sense of self, there’s a little hope for all of us. Unless you’re a supermodel, sports stud, or superstar, there’s nary a chance of landing the hunk or honey of your dreams. In the movies, anything is apparently possible, meaning that ‘out of your league’ or not, you just might get what you wish for.