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Movie review: Romantic math too predictable in ‘What’s Your Number?’

Dennis King Published: September 30, 2011

It’s true that we harbor a terrible double standard between men and women when it comes to sexual activity.  A healthy young single man who has slept with multiple partners is often considered a dog, a stud, a player. A young woman who has done the same is likely to be stigmatized as a harlot, a slut or worse.

Ari Graynor, Anna Faris, Kate Simses
Ari Graynor, Anna Faris, Kate Simses

In his 1991 autobiography, NBA star Wilt Chamberlain boasted of having slept with some 20,000 women. That made national headlines and added a winking asterisk to Wilt the Stilt’s legendary prowess. In the tepid new romcom “What’s Your Number?” star Anna Faris’ woebegone single gal Ally Darling has racked up 20 sexual partners, and that ignites a moral crisis and sets her off on a desperate, wacky quest to find Mr. Right, settle down and get married.

Freighted with virtually every romantic comedy cliché and convention in the book, “What’s Your Number?” – ably directed by Mark Mylod from a script by Gabrielle Allan and Jennifer Crittenden (all TV sitcom veterans) – seems an attempt to break the blond, bubbly and very appealing Faris out of the B-movie ghetto (“Scary Movie 1-4,” “The House Bunny,” etc.) and into a sexy league with Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Garner and the like.

The irrepressible force of Faris’ personality, plus her penchant for cute self-effacement and charming pratfalls, does lift this movie slightly from its dolefully predictable course. But everything around her feels stale and second-hand.

The story opens as Boston single gal Ally is dumped by her latest boyfriend, fired from her marketing job and reads in a slick women’s magazine a story that reports the average woman has 10.5 lovers in her lifetime. Furthermore, the article states, women who have had 20 or more lovers are unlikely ever to find a husband.

Ally makes a quick head count and discovers to her horror that she’s had 19 lovers. And in a quirky scene depicting the rowdy bachelorette party for her soon-to-be-married younger sister (Ari Graynor), she notches number 20 in a drunken one-night stand with her oily ex-boss (“Community’s” Joel McHale, oddly unfunny).

So in the story’s most arbitrary and far-fetched turn, Ally vows not to sleep with another man until she finds Mr. Right.

Her cracked plan is to reconnect with ex-lovers in hopes of rekindling a spark and avoiding adding any new names to her bedmate roster. So she enlists the reluctant aid of her handsome, quarrelsome neighbor Colin Shea (Chris “Captain America” Evans), a womanizing musician-slacker who might as well have “Mr. Right” tattooed on his forehead, to track down these long-gone men.

There are a few amusing and disastrous reunions between Ally and her exes. Especially funny is one with a stuffed-shirt Englishman (Martin Freeman), in which Ally assumes an erratic British accent that with each drink devolves from posh to Cockney to Borat-style eastern European. But mostly those scenarios are too few and too flat.

Faris and Evans do make and appealing couple, and the filmmakers go to fevered lengths to get the two out of their clothes and sweetly poised for the final, thoroughly unsurprising hook-up.

And that’s the main problem with “What’s Your Number?” We have its number from the moment these bickering lovers meet. The elemental math adds up far too predictably.

- Dennis King

“What’s Your Number?”

2 stars
Starring: Anna Faris, Chris Evans, Ari Graynor, Joel McHale
(Sexual content and language)