It's as though the creators of What's Your Number? took every romantic comedy trope they could think of, put them in a blender and then smeared the paste on our faces, and we're like, "Gross," but then some of the paste gets in our mouth and it tastes kind of funny without meaning to.
Anna Faris stars as Ally Darling, who, after her first of many romantic foibles, is off to her job in a big city at a chic-looking office. We're dying to know: Does she work at a magazine? Does she work in fashion? Does she work at a fashion magazine? She buzzes by the company's logo before we can see it. Her hot boss fires her straight away. We find out later the job was in "marketing." I think she actually uses air quotes when she talks about it.
Despondent, she reads a magazine article that tells her the average woman has slept with 10.5 men in her lifetime, and her brow furrows adorably. According to the article, the veracity of which is unquestionably worshipped throughout the duration of the film, it's damn near impossible to find a husband if you've slept with more than 20 men. Here's where things get slippery. Pretend you're Ally Darling, you're standing at this precipice and you're the star of one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books. Do you:
A) Take the wisdom of the article with a grain of salt, go home and start thinking about finding another job in order to pay for your gorgeous apartment in downtown Boston?
B) Spend the rest of the film remembering the 20-plus men you've slept with in order to painfully seek them out in a series of hilarious misadventures, when the man you're really supposed to be with has been across the hall all along?
If you chose A, then the movie is over, but you're Ally Darling, and you chose B. The film's saving grace is that Faris is so oddly likeable. The rules of romantic comedy dictate that a leading lady is physically perfect, but with some cute flaw. In real life, Mindy Kaling has a great article in The New Yorker about the bizarre alternate universe of the romantic comedy that lays these out for us. Kaling tells us the heroine is perfect except she's a klutz or she eats a tremendous amount of food or she works too hard. Ally is endearing because her flaws are layered and many: She's got a hot body but sort of a weird face. She can't hold down a job. She lets her catty, judgmental lady-friends make decisions for her. She has the husky voice of a little boy. Instead of being a klutz, she suffers from a kind of Tourette syndrome that causes her to say inappropriate sexual things and she probably has a crippling drinking problem that the story never acknowledges. She drinks a big glass of wine next to her beautiful Mac computer (oh my god, Steve Jobs is turning in his grave) while trying to narrow her search of men with names like "Mike Miller" by Googling, "Mike Miller big balls small penis." Do you see what I'm talking about? She's such an adorable moron; we can't help but love her.
Chris Evans plays Colin, the hunky next-door neighbor who sleeps with lots of women and doesn't feel bad about it. We're supposed to believe he's an out-of-work musician instead of an underwear model or film actor. Unlike Ally, he knows how to use the internet, and will help her with her quest in exchange for a place to hide from the women he bangs but doesn't love. Don't you see? Ally and Colin are perfect for each other!
Romantic comedy clichés in this blender include, but are not limited to:
–The gay ex-boyfriend.
–The rich, perfect man who is too boring.
–Gorgeous, unobservant men who are afraid of commitment.
–A gag involving stirrups at the gynecologist that isn't at all funny.
–The climactic scene held at someone else's wedding. (If this were a teen comedy, it would be at prom.)
–A drunk, embarrassing toast at the rehearsal dinner.
–A mean, superficial mother who encourages the heroine to go for the wrong man in order to fulfill vicariously her own dreams and fantasies.
–Doing something crazy (in this case, jumping naked into Boston Harbor) at the end of a picture-perfect romantic evening with the man whom the heroine will nevertheless reject because the plot requires her to reject him, until she doesn't and the movie can finally end.
The film either warns against sleeping with too many people, or else the lesson is that it's okay to sleep with as many people as you want as long as you eventually fall in love and settle down. Maybe it's both? There's either secret genius at work in the stupidity, or it's just a pleasure to watch slutty morons fall in love.
What's Your Number continues at the Carmike 10.