‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ wins you with charm

(L-r) RYAN GOSLING as Jacob and STEVE CARELL as Cal in Warner Bros. Pictures’ comedy “CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE.” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Crazy, Stupid, Love is refreshingly enjoyable. It is an unpredictable, though implausible, romantic comedy that is laugh-out-loud funny.

It’s a different kind of rom-com, one that mixes in some “bromance” elements and even focuses on an older married couple whose best days seem to be behind them. That couple is Cal (Steve Carell) and Emily (Julianne Moore), who are on the road to divorce after Emily’s revelation that she slept with David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon), her co-worker.

Moore had a much meatier role of a similar ilk in The Kids Are Alright, but she does what she can to make Emily a sympathetic character in spite of the fact that she’s the cheater.

Carell channels his dorky, inexperienced-in-love persona from The 40-Year-Old Virgin when his character moves out of the house. Cal proceeds to visit the same bar every day, sipping the same fruity drink and lamenting the end of his marriage to anyone who will listen. His pathetic rants catch the ear of Jacob (Ryan Gosling), a suave playboy who only needs a two-minute conversation with a lady to get her to go home with him.

Jacob takes Cal under his wing, gives him a makeover (a fun scene) and teaches him some tricks to woo the ladies. It works, and soon Cal is going home with Kate (Marisa Tomei), the first of many. Tomei does a good job of making her small role memorable. My favorite part of the movie just might have been when Kate attempts revenge on Cal after their one-night stand.

Jacob’s issues come to the forefront when he meets Hannah (Emma Stone), a spunky redhead who’s hip to his love-them-and-leave-them game. Jacob thinks Hannah is a game-changer and doesn’t know how to relax and be himself. We knew that Gosling could do serious (see Blue Valentine, The Notebook and Half-Nelson), but he proves himself as a fairly skilled comedic actor, especially during his early scenes with Carell.

A third plot in the movie involves Cal and Emily’s 13-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) and the family’s 17-year-old babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton). Their storyline involves some crazy antics that may appeal to the younger set.

Misunderstandings galore make up the movie’s final act and get the most laughs. The unexpected twist near the end had the audience at my screening rolling with laughter. It’s best not to know anything about the ending because it makes the twist much more head-scratching.

Writer Dan Fogelman’s script is a bit heavy on the drama early on, and the movie sometimes feels a little slow. Thankfully, things pick up and never look back.

One unfortunate thing about the movie is that I felt like I had basically seen the first half thanks to the overly talky trailer. The preview ruined potentially funny moments like Julianne Moore’s “I saw the new Twilight movie by myself. It was so bad,” and Emma Stone’s “Seriously?! It’s like you’re Photoshopped.”

I’d describe Crazy, Stupid, Love as unpredictably predictable. Being a romantic comedy, it follows the typical happily-ever-after trajectory, but getting there is fun, and the fact that the characters are worth caring about is a bonus. ••

Movie Grade: B+