Maybe dweeb really can be a player

Alice Eve, Geoff Stults (center), and Jay Baruchel, who plays a TSA agent who can't believe he's caught the bombshell's eye, in the cheerfully vulgar but bighearted film.
Alice Eve, Geoff Stults (center), and Jay Baruchel, who plays a TSA agent who can't believe he's caught the bombshell's eye, in the cheerfully vulgar but bighearted film.
Posted: March 12, 2010

Comedies often rely on odd-couple asymmetry. The skinny guy and the fat one. The blonde and the brunette. The neatnik and the slob.

She's Out of My League, a raunchy comedy with a surprisingly deep vein of sweetness, mines - as the ballad goes - a tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme. Not beauty and beast, exactly, but babe and dweeb. It's a disparity purveyed by movies as diverse as Knocked Up and The Hottie and the Nottie, and the cheerfully vulgar (but with heart) League is somewhere between the two.

Kirk (Jay Baruchel), a weedy Transportation Security Administration agent lately jilted by his girlfriend, is burning in love hell. Will he ever meet a girl who can appreciate his gawky grace?

When Kirk returns a cell phone to Molly (Alice Eve), a stunning blonde who accidentally left it in a screening tray, he is like a hungry man looking at a feast that is off-limits. The self-described average Joe thinks that just to breathe the aroma of a smoking-hot goddess is all he deserves.

Then when Molly gives him a ticket to a Pittsburgh Penguins game, Kirk can't get his head around the possibility that Molly invited him as her date. When this is explained to the self-deprecating Kirk, he starts worrying about the disparity in their looks and their jobs.

Kirk reckons himself a 5 and Molly a "hard 10." Why, he wonders, would this voluptuous party planner for the Pittsburgh elite (with a law degree, besides!) be interested in an innocuous airport employee who resembles a human exclamation point?

The answer provided by the script from Sean Anders and John Morris (who wrote the better-than-average Sex Drive) is that Kirk is honorable and funny, qualities Molly hasn't often encountered in men. Still, Kirk is vulnerable to razzing by friends and family about why someone like Molly would like someone like him.

Directed by Jim Field Smith with obvious attention to the performers and total indifference to visual storytelling, League is a diverting showcase for Baruchel and Eve, who are excellent arguments for the proposition that there's more to a person than looks.

With his corrugated forehead and quizzical air, Baruchel (a familiar face from Knocked Up and Tropic Thunder) is endearingly funny. Like Cameron Diaz in There's Something About Mary, Eve (the Australian bombshell from Crossing Over) deftly refocuses attention from her centerfold assets to her character's bighearted warmth.

Likewise memorable are Nate Torrence as Devon, Kirk's hopeless-romantic friend who takes the lyrics to the songs in Disney animated musicals as gospel, and Krysten Ritter as Molly's sweet 'n' sour best friend.

Unfortunately, the filmmakers reach for moves from the Judd Apatow playbook, including the requisite sexual-humiliation scene and the superfluous male-grooming moment. The latter involves "manscaping," that is, shaving the privates. Fortunately, the actors are so likable that these wincingly unfunny moments don't spoil the party.


Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey

at 215-854-5402. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/

flickgrrl/

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