'She's Out of My League'

This appealingly cast movie seesaws from unlikely thoughtfulness to imbecilic vulgarity.

Crushing its one germ of a good idea under a heap of teen-comedy conventions, “She’s Out of My League” supposes that if a quasi-normal guy actually won the girl of his dreams, his own insecurities would scuttle the deal. One can imagine Jack Nicholson strolling into helmer Jim Field Smith’s erratic story and bellowing “You can’t handle the babe!” as this appealingly cast movie seesaws from unlikely thoughtfulness to imbecilic vulgarity. Teen auds will respond in force, especially those among the semen-joke constituency.

In a salute to harried air travelers everywhere, the chuckleheads of “She’s Out of My League” — notably Kirk Kettner (Jay Baruchel) — all work for TSA, aka airport security, where they have no problem stalling, stopping and stammering at a passenger like the breathtaking Molly (Alice Eve) and gaping at her with undisguised lust. The one guy with a sense of decency is Kirk, who gets her through the gauntlet of goons, returns her cell phone when she leaves it behind and wins a date in the process. Molly, it seems, is coming out of a bad relationship, and dating a doofus seems like the safe thing to do.

Kirk has his own troubled romantic history: The opening scene finds him practicing a make-up speech to his ex, Marnie (a delightfully loathsome Lindsay Sloane), who, since their breakup, has maintained her relationship with his parents, to the point that she hangs out at their house with her new boyfriend. This puts Kirk on an almost unparalleled plane of pathetic loserdom, from which it’s going to be very hard to recover.

Fortunately for Kirk, helmer Smith feels no obligation to ensure that circumstances or characters make sense, or to avoid reverting to formula. Molly’s best friend and party-planning partner, Patty (a terrific Krysten Ritter in a badly written part), resists the new match. Kirk’s friends — notably Stainer (T.J. Miller) and Jack (Mike Vogel) — argue that on the cosmic scale of sexual attractiveness, Molly is a “hard 10″ and Kirk is barely a five, and “you can’t jump more than two points.”

Kirk’s other pal, Devon (the wonderfully squishy Nate Torrence), argues on behalf of love, but Devon also bases all his romantic presumptions on animated Disney movies (“She’s Princess Jasmine,” he gasps about one girl). The promise of love, as unlikely as it is to begin with in the schematic of the romantic comedy, is under constant assault by the people who should be encouraging it. It’s almost an interesting angle.

Something similar might be said about the quandary faced by Kirk: More of a goofball-by-association than a bona-fide dipstick, he worries himself out of contention. Here he has a woman who actually comes to his house and visits his family (of whom “baboons” would be a complimentary description) and even agrees to accompany them all to Branson, Mo., which some might equate with the third circle of hell. But Kirk can’t help expecting that he’s going to romantically crash and burn, and he does — though he puts it off long enough to get some conflict going and allow some embarrassing, disgusting sequences to transpire.

Baruchel, a member of the “Knocked Up”/”Tropic Thunder” repertory company, is a charmer, his Kirk a self-effacing, modest, socially high-functioning guy of limited charisma but sweet disposition.

And though she might have gotten away with being just a pretty face, Eve brings a genuineness to Molly that’s refreshing, especially in a genre that usually treats young women like chuck roast.

You can see them together; it’s not so hard. What you can’t quite believe is that they would have anything to do with anyone else in this movie, which dances on the edge of good taste without ever actually falling in.

Production values are adequate, save for the music cues, which seem intended to inflict cerebral hemorrhage.

She's Out of My League

Production

A Paramount release of a DreamWorks presentation of a Mosaic Media Group production. Produced by Jimmy Miller, David Householter. Executive producer, George Gatins. Directed by Jim Field Smith. Screenplay, Sean Anders, John Morris.

Crew

Camera (Deluxe color), Jim Denault; editor, Dan Schalk; music, Michael Andrews; music supervisor, Deva Anderson; production designer, Clayton Hartley; art director, Jim Gloster; set decorator, Casey Hollenbeck; costume designer, Molly Maginnis; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS), Whit Norris; supervising sound editor, Andrew de Cristofaro; re-recording mixers, Andy Koyama, Chris Carpenter; stunt coordinator, John Copeman; assistant director, Richard L. Fox; casting, Allison Jones. Reviewed at Regal E-Walk, New York, Feb. 25, 2010. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 106 MIN.

With

Kirk - Jay Baruchel Molly - Alice Eve Stainer - T.J. Miller Jack - Mike Vogel Devon - Nate Torrence Marnie - Lindsay Sloane Dylan - Kyle Bornheimer Debbie - Jessica St. Clair Patty - Krysten Ritter Mrs. Kettner - Debra Jo Rupp Mr. Kettner - Adam LeFevre

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