A film review by Craig J. Koban March 18, 2010


2010, R, 106 mins.


Kirk: Jay Baruchel / Molly: Alice Eve / Stainer: T.J. Miller / Jack: Mike Vogel / Devon: Nate Torrence / Marnie: Lindsay Sloane / Dylan: Kyle Bornheimer / Mrs. Kettner: Debra Jo Rupp / Mr. Kettner: Adam LeFevre

Directed by Jim Field Smith / Written by Sean Anders and John Morris

According to one character in the new romcom SHE’S OUT OF MY LEAGUE there are "Laws of Physical Attractiveness" that govern the universe.  In simple, it states that couples separated by more than “2” on a numerical scale out of ten will have no chance in hell of success. 

So what does that mean for me and…say…Megan Fox…a woman that is clearly a 10? 

Well…I am average looking...not ugly, but not hunky.  So I think I'm a 6.  Add one point for being smart (at least I tell myself that I am smart), which would take me to 7.  I also think that I am outgoing and moderately funny, so that takes me to 8.  Subtract 1 because I am flabby…and perhaps another point because I do not own a home (I still rent…sigh).  That takes me to a 6.  However, I have spectacular taste in movies, which adds one point and takes me back to 7.  Whoops...I am also very self-pitying at times, so subtract another point.  I'm officially a 6.  Alas, Fox is a 10 and I am a 6, and according to the laws of physical attractiveness, we can never be, which makes me sad.  Sniffle…sniffle. 

SHE’S OUT OF MY LEAGUE asks viewers to believe in a romance that is…let’s say…pure science fiction to most, myself included:  It deals with a young man that is, but his friends' estimation, a 5 and through a miraculous series of events he finds himself being courted by not only a 10, but “a hard 10” that could be a borderline 11.  So unattainably hot is this woman that, to paraphrase the great Frank Drebin, “She could melt a cheese sandwich from across the room.”  On many levels, the film is the ultimate geek/underdog/male pornographic wish fulfillment fantasy: You know the kind, the one where a decent, affable, gawky looking, but noble minded everyman doofus uses his neurotic charisma to win over a limitlessly gorgeous woman that he should have no business being with.  

Of course, this theme has been explored in countless recent romcoms to great and rousing success (see KNOCKED UP for the finest example), so it would hard to label SHE’S OUT OF MY LEAGUE as wholeheartedly original.  It tells a fairly formulaic and perfunctory story that follows the basic genre mechanizations with an unavoidable certainty.  This is a standard order romcom by many definitions, but what ultimately makes it agreeable is that, much like the films of the Judd Apatow canon, its underlining sweetness in tone manages to overshadow its frat house-esque moments of R-rated raunchiness.  Even better, it actually manages to invest some time developing an understanding for how an implausible relationship like the one presented could actually work. 

The “5” in question is Kirk (Jay Baruchel), whose bffs, Stainer (T.J. Miller), Jack (Mike Vogel), and Devon (Nate Torrence) frequently remind him as to his numerical status.  Kirk’s friends also seem to live vicariously through him, which often leaves him the victim of some seriously demented psychoanalysis.  Kirk has caring bromates, for sure, but his luck with the ladies is at a virtually standstill.  Why?  Well…he’s a 5.  Why is he a 5?  He’s socially awkward, painfully inhibited, fumbles with words, and has such a do-gooder and naďve personality that’s kind and apologetic in the most aggressive ways possible.  He works at a go-nowhere job as a security guard at TWA (he wanted to train to be a pilot, which has permanently been put on hold), and has just broken up with his long-term girlfriend.  Worse yet is that his ex's new beau has become best buddies with his mom and dad.  Hell, Kirk’s parents don’t even like nor respect him all that much.  Adding to his existentialist funk is the fact that he's a hopeless “moodle,” or man poodle, a label that his friends describe as being like a cute puppy dog: Women want to hug Kirk, take him out for walks, and feed him…but they rarely ever want to screw him.  No babe wants to “do the moodle.” 

Fate, as it always does, steps in for Kirk in the form of the very sultry, very charming, and very much a “hard 10” in Molly (Alice Eve), who accidentally leaves her cell phone behind at the security checkpoint that Kirk works at.  She contacts him on it and is relieved that he has her phone and they arrange to get together so she can get it back.  She invites him to a swank party for the exchange and Kirk's dreadfully low self-esteem tells him that this is nothing more than just a platonic get-together.  However, he becomes more than startled when Molly begins to take a personal interest in him, which annoys her own best friend, Patty (a spunky and feisty Krysten Ritter), as she believes that Kirk is way below Molly's standards.  She also thinks that the sting of her very recent break-up to a chiseled hunk of a man has left her on the rebound.  Molly asserts herself, though, and offers no apologies for her actions.  She sees Kirk as an inept and bumbling underachiever that is physically very far from her previous boyfriends, but she nonetheless likes him because he’s...well...so nice.  Awwww. 

Defying all of his expectations, Kirk finds himself dating this blonde bombshell goddess from above, even when his friends and family constantly seem puzzled and incredulous at the thought of him even being within earshot of this woman.  Slowly, but surely, Kirk’s stifling insecurities about himself – largely precipitated by his friends and family – begin to get the better of him just when things are getting really good with Molly, but it is those insecurities that start to become a real turn off to her.  She has become fond of Kirk and begins to relate to him as a person, but when he begins to lose faith in not only himself, but also for the foundations of their improbable relationship, she too begins to have doubts.  As a result, Kirk begins to realize that he will have to pull out all of the stops to secure Molly as his exclusive girlfriend…even when the Laws of Physical Attractiveness shadows him at every waking turn. 

SHE’S OUT OF MY LEAGUE gets something right that so many other romcoms fail to accomplish: it introduces us to two likeable and appealing leads and makes us like them so much that you want to root them on to that pre-end credit final kiss and reconciliation.  On these levels, I am willing to forgive just about any romcom for being predictable, and SHE’S OUT OF MY LEAGUE is certainly formulaic.  Especially routine are the complications to Kirk and Molly’s romance, like the appearance of her old boyfriend that is physically superior to Kirk in everyway, or her snobby parents that don’t understand Kirk, or the classic misunderstandings between Kirk and Molly…and…well…you get what I mean.  The film even concludes in the most overused venue for two lovers to reacquaint themselves in the movies, the airport, but this time it has the woman chasing after than man…and the man at least works there. 

Jay Baruchel has an ill-at-ease-within-his-own-skin quality that makes it easy to invest in his plight.  He’s an uncoordinated geek, to be sure, but he is a sincere, honest, and decent geek.  I also appreciated how well the film makes the Alice Eve character both a prototypical embodiment of every man’s fantasy woman as well as a flesh and blood person with real feelings and insecurities.  She’s not a one-note simpleton or brainless sex pot; Molly is a babe and a half, but the film makes you genuinely believe that she would give this hapless loser a snowball’s chance in hell.  Baruchel and Eve occupy a few tender scenes in the film that have a real emotional honesty as well, which helps to elevate the film above being a disposable and forgettable genre effort. 

The film is also insidiously funny at times, mostly for the philosophizing trash talk between Kirk and his sometimes-clueless friends (T.J. Miller in particular has a deadpan, Jason Lee-manner of vulgar frankness that is kind of infectious).  There are also some funny sequence that largely stem for moments of supreme social embarrassment for Kirk, such as one very highly inopportune moment when Molly’s parents pay the two a visit just as the pair have rounded second, hit third, and have almost made it to home base.  Well…Kirk did make it to home base…in his pants…which leads to the film’s single greatest shock laugh and moment of brutal honesty when Kirk later offers up an explanation as to why he refused to stand up to shake her father’s hand.  This might be the only time in film history when a bodily fluid prematurely unleashed in one’s pants is used as an excuse for improper behavior to win over the trust of a girl. 

Not all of SHE’S OUT OF MY LEAGUE is hilarious, like a few impromptu moments of gross out humor that this film definitely did not need, like a scene that involves two grown men, the hairy groin region of one of them, and a pair of barber’s clippers that would never, ever occur between two straight men.  That, and the film never plausibly grounds its airport scenes (the security here, provided by Kirk and his buds, feels scandalously unsafe) and Kirk’s family are presented as simplistic, cardboard drones at service of the plot.  Yet, in the end, SHE’S OUT OF MY LEAGUE is a sex fantasy that fires on most of its intended cylinders and succeeds.  I found myself willing to overlook the sheer impossibility of Kirk and Molly’s relationship being a reality because of the ways the actors made me believe in it.  

Hmmm...maybe there's hope for Megan Fox and me after all?.  

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