New on the DVD Shelves: Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)

The sly reveal is one of the coolest weapons in a moviemaker’s arsenal.

Who can forget the final, bone-chilling reveals of supernatural thrillers like The Sixth Sense or Fallen?

Crazy, Stupid, Love isn’t a ghost story like those two films. It’s a romantic comedy. But near the end it has a whopper of a reveal. And whether you buy that reveal or regard it as a cheat will pretty much determine how you feel about the movie.

Don’t worry. We won’t give it away here. Instead we’ll talk about everything BUT the big reveal.

Suburban husband/dad Cal (Steve Carell) is blindsided when Emily (Julianne Moore), his wife of 24 years, announces she’s been having an affair with a co-worker and wants a divorce.

Sad sack Cal finds himself sitting night after night in a bar bemoaning his fate and watching other people score. An expert in that pursuit is the suave, slick, self-assured Jacob (Ryan Gosling...who seems to be in EVERY movie released in 2011). Jacob goes home each night with a different woman.

Jacob takes Cal under his wing as a sort of charity project. Why? How come? Welcome to Hollywood’s alternative universe version of reality.

Anyway, under Jacob’s tutelage the bumbling, romantically inexperienced Cal gets a makeover, a supply of pickup lines and just enough self confidence to snag a one-night stand with a mature woman on the prowl (Marisa Tomei).

Overnight he becomes Don Juan.

That’s one plot thread. Another involves Jacob’s relationship with Hannah (the adorable Emma Stone), a smart young redhead whom he finds unbearably alluring precisely because she doesn’t buy his well-polished love machine persona.

Hannah takes one look at his impossibly ripped abs and accuses Jacob of Photoshopping himself.

So while the older guy is starting to behave like an oversexed teen, the younger guy is feeling his first stirrings of genuine love.

Back at the old homestead Emily is dealing with her office squeeze (Kevin Bacon). Her and Cal’s 13-year-old son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo), is both struggling with his parents’ breakup and with his hopeless love for the family’s 17-year-old babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton, a face to keep an eye out for). What the kid doesn’t know is that his beloved Jessica is herself smitten with his dad, Cal.

Okay, so it gets a bit complicated. Dan Fogelman’s screenplay dishes maybe two subplots too many for the movie’s own good. A genuinely seasoned filmmaker might be able to keep all these balls effortlessly in the air, but co-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (I Love You Phillip Morris) aren’t there yet.

They especially struggle to keep an even keel as the yarn veers sharply from the sad to the ribald, physical farce to witty repartee. It’s like being kissed and slapped at the same time.

The saving grace here is a cast that makes it work.

And then comes the reveal, a third act development that takes several of the plot threads and neatly binds them together.

Or perhaps it’s not so neat. You may feel (as I did) that we’ve been had, that the movie’s romantic/comedic afterglow is compromised, that the screenwriter cheated by hiding some pretty basic information so as to make the big reveal that much more shocking.

It’s like watching a family sitcom and then having somebody casually announce that when he’s not watching TV, Dad is President of the United States.

Uh...couldn’t you have mentioned that earlier?

About the Author

Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at butlerscinemascene.com. He's married to the former Ellen Vaughan; they are the proud parents of LA-based comedian, writer, director and TV personality Blair Butler. He used to be a dog person but now lives with two cats, thus demonstrating the flexibility of the human condition.