Although it is considered one of the lighter genres in film the romantic comedy is also among the most difficult to execute properly. It has to run the gamut of emotions from comedy to drama, contain a romantic story and somehow wind its way to the ultimate happy ending. Such a movie runs the risk of crossing the line into being sappy and silly. If the audience cannot emotionally connect with the main characters all is immediately lost. One of the latest of this type of film is now being released to DVD from Universal, ‘Definitely, Maybe’. Like so many films it looks better on paper than it does on the screen. It has all the required elements but there are fundamental problems with the script that plague the production. This is not to say it is a bad film, it isn’t. It just could have reached closer to its potential than it did. Originally the film was released to theaters on St. Valentine’s Day in hopes of becoming a strong date movie. It actually does work in that respect. Guys may want to steer clear of such a film since there is little hope they can ever be as romantic as the leading man that usually results in some words from your wife or girlfriend. Still, this is an entertaining flick that both genders can have fun watching. Sometimes all you want is something light and fluffy to watch. It is sort of like having a snack composed of mostly empty calories; it is not something to have all the time but as an occasional guilty pleasure it is great. This film will never be on a list of the best romantic comedies out there but it delivers what you go in expecting; a brief diversion from the reality of life.
Adam Brooks wrote and directed this pseudo mystery of a rom-com. Hailing from Canada he has a reasonably good track record with light hearted films like this. He wrote ‘Practical Magic’, ‘Wimbledon’ and ‘Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason’. These are all films with a little twist on the basic concept of the genre. You have a witch falling in love; a tennis player in love and a neurotic young woman in love. Here Brooks takes the leap and changes the perspective completely. This story is presented from the man’s point of view. This is not common in this type of film and in itself is refreshing to see. Brooks does seem to have some difficultly moving the gender bias to the more masculine point of view. Adding to the degree of difficulty is the addition of a little girl in the script. In ‘Practical Magic’ there were a couple but they were little more than window dressing. Here Brooks is writing for Abigail Breslin, who despite her young age is already an accomplished and talented actress. It has been said that the worse thing for an actor is to appear opposite children or animals. In this case young Ms Breslin goes a long way to saving this movie from the technical flaws that are present. Many would include among those faults predictability. You really can’t hold that against a film like this. You know that it is going to be presented in three basic acts. The first sets up the romantic dilemma. In this case a father, Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds) is asked by his daughter Mya (Breslin) to tell here how he met her mother. He tells her about three women in his life and challenges her to decide which one became his wife. The second act is the conflict. In this case it looks as though Will is not capable of establishing a lasting relationship. Last true love is discovered in the third act. There is little room for surprises in this format; you know that there will be a happy ending and the tension in the middle of the film will be neatly resolved. To its credit the little mystery thrown in for the benefit of daughter is an interesting departure from the usual plot lines. Some of the characters are not fully developed in this script. Part of this has to be the way the story is presented. Will is telling his young daughter about his love life. He does include some details that may not be age appropriate by some standards but this is a bed time story. In order to fit in all three women some loss of character depth is lost.
As a director Brooks has to handle some delicate themes he introduced in his script. As mentioned here is a man telling his pre-teen daughter is sexual history as a bed time story. There is a fine line between endearing and creepy that Brooks treads here. It is only because Brelin is so cute and Reynolds comes off as a kind hearted daddy that it works without you wanting to call Children’s Services on Will. There is also a plot device that has become more common place with modern romantic comedies, lesbianism. This also stretches what many would consider good taste in a child’s bedtime story Brooks handles it in such a way that it just seems that Will and Mya have a relationship where he will answer questions about sex as honesty as he can. Part of what prompted this story to his daughter was her first sex education class in school. Overall an older child may have been a better choice from this point of view. Ironically, this film is rated PG-13 which would preclude Ms Breslin and the character she plays from seeing it. Considering the movie is mostly flashbacks Brooks handles the pacing very well. The cuts between scenes are natural and flow easily. He does provide enough clues to the ending that it is fun to see it your choice for his wife and his one true love were correct.
Will is sitting at work when a package is delivered to him; the papers to make his divorce final. He never thought that this would happen but then again he never thought his life would be in an advertising firm marketing children’s cereal. His favorite days are Tuesday and Thursdays, the days he has custody of his daughter Mya. When he gets to her school it is mayhem; the parents are all upset that the children just had their first sex ed class. She starts asking endless those endless questions that every parent dreads; especially between a daughter and father. It eventually turns to Mya wanting to know the story of how he met her mother. He takes it into a different direction telling her about three women and letting her guess which one was her mother. All the names will be changed to protect their identities. The first is Emily (Elizabeth Banks). Will met her in 1992 when he was working on the Bill Clinton presidential campaign. Though her he meets her friend Summer (Rachel Weisz) a reporter. There is also another campaign worker, April (Isla Fisher). In turn Will becomes involved with each one. He tells his daughter about how Emily also had an affair with her former college professor Roth (Kevin Kline) and she was also lovers with Summer. Okay, too much information. It is almost like one of my nephews who wanted to know were he came from. My sister-in-law gave him a hour of sex ed to which the boy replied, ‘but Timmy came from Methodist Hospital’. Sometimes the parent goes over board with the ‘talk’.
This is a film that is a showcase for its cast. Reynolds has been in a broad spectrum of flicks in his career. He has been the action hero in ‘Blade Trinity’ and the loveable slacker in ‘Van Wilder’. If you ever get a chance to see reruns of the sit-com ‘Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place’ you will see just how good he is with comedy. He plays Will honestly here; a man facing a divorce who loves his daughter completely. Of course Breslin is rapidly becoming one of the up coming young actresses around. She has a command of the screen that is amazing to watch. Banks is cute, perky and delightful to watch. Fischer has a natural flair for this kind of role and gives her all to it. Weisz is better known for steamier, more serious parts but also handles comedy very well.
Universal does a great job with releasing this film to DVD. They do have a Pan & Scan version but lets not talk about that one. The widescreen version has a rich, well balanced 2.35:1 anamorphic video accompanied with a robust Dolby 5.1 audio. There is a commentary track with Reynolds and Brooks that is fun to9 listen to. One featurette details the recreation of the early nineties while the other is on the construction of a romantic comedy. Rounding things off are some deleted scenes. This is a fun flick for date night.