The great irony in Crazy Stupid Love – a film that firmly believes in soul mates and keeping hold of them – is that it has no idea what kind of movie it wants to be. It opens with Emily (Julianne Moore) announcing to Cal (Steve Carell), her husband of 30 years, that she wants a divorce. This sends Cal into a spiraling mid-life crisis that sees him team up with serial womaniser Jacob (an immaculate Ryan Gosling) and learn how to be a promiscuous chauvinist in today’s dating environment. Events are played for broad laughs and one suspects some bawdy humour is lurking just around the corner as Cal learns begins to score with the ladies.
Pretty soon, however, Cal is pining for his wife, who is contemplating a relationship with her sleazy colleague (Kevin Bacon), while they juggle parental commitments to an almost entirely anonymous young daughter (Joey King), and hormonal teenage son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo). Robbie’s unrequited love for his beautiful babysitter, Jessica (America’s Next Top Model alumni Analeigh Tipton) and his parents’ impending divorce cause him to act up at school and suddenly the film is in full family drama mode – and this is before Jessica reveals her infatuation with Cal and Jacob’s world is turned upside down when he meets Emma Stone’s “game changer”, Hannah.
Crazy Stupid Love is written by Dan Fogelman, who made his name with animated family films like Cars 2 and Tangled. His characters here barely resemble real living people, but are mere cartoon representations of various stock clichés he wishes to address. At no point does anybody in the film behave like a normal human being, or come to any real harm because of their actions.
Jacob, a self-absorbed narcissist, takes Cal under his wing for no good reason and spends exorbitant amounts of his own time ensuring Cal looks and smells better and finds the confidence to talk to women. Jacob only appears to frequent one bar, but finds everything he ever needs there, never running into disgruntled former partners looking for explanations or even an actual date. However, no sooner has the film established Jacob and his callous MO, his life collapses the moment a pretty girl with a modicum of intelligence walks into his life. But this is just one of a myriad life problems that are shrugged off with a sigh and a smile in this fantasy world of Fogelman’s creation.
Directors Glen Ficarra and John Requa, who did sterling work on the little-seen I Love You Phillip Morris, never dare make their cast anything less than likable – even homewrecker Bacon is portrayed as a lovable rogue – and events stay sappy and superficial throughout. The end result is that while offering zero insight and precious little depth, Crazy Stupid Love actually manages to be passingly entertaining in parts, even as it baffles and confounds with its total failure to grasp reality.