At one point in “My Man Is a Loser,” a dismally stupid and sexist romantic comedy about two hopeless husbands trying to win back their fed-up wives, the men’s personal romantic trainer (John Stamos) teaches them the importance of having a good sense of humor. Or, as he puts it: “Funny gets you laid.” Applying that logic, expect a severe case of box office blue balls for this shallow parade of gender-role cliches, which plays like an illustrated companion volume to those moribund self-help dating guides that proliferated over the past decade or so. Opening Friday in theaters and on VOD, it’s the movie that viewers who were too intellectually drained by “Think Like a Man” have been waiting for.
If there’s a way to make couples’ therapy funny and relatable without lapsing into reductive assumptions about how men never listen and what women really want, writer-director Mike Young hasn’t figured it out here. Paul (Bryan Callen) and Marty (Michael Rapaport) are best buds and professional partners who find themselves increasingly in the doghouse with their respective wives, Liz (Heidi Armbruster) and Lianne (Kathy Searle). Railing against Paul in their counseling sessions, Liz feels unable to connect with her often physically present but emotionally absent husband. For her part, Lianne seems to take issue mainly with Marty’s peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich-making skills (which are admittedly pretty subpar), as well as his all-around boorishness.
After Paul and Marty spend a night ill-advisedly drinking and cavorting with strippers, photographic evidence of which winds up on Facebook, they decide to save their marriages by seeking the counsel of Paul’s studly brother-in-law, Mike (Stamos). A lifelong bachelor, Mike begins schooling them in the fine arts of listening carefully, getting in shape, developing backbones and cultivating their sensitive sides. Helping him out with these lessons — including one atypically cute sequence in which they demonstrate the best ways to cuddle — is Clarissa (Tika Sumpter), a comely young woman who works at the bar he runs in Manhattan. Really, though, Clarissa’s chief function is to ensure that Mike, for all his playboy swagger, eventually realizes the emptiness of the single life and succumbs to the monogamous lifestyle he’s avoided for so long.
That’s not the only domestic drama afoot as this tiresome yuppie fantasy ambles toward its conclusion, with zero sense of comic momentum or purpose. Will Mike and Clarissa find a way to save the cash-strapped bar, weathering the fickle fortunes of New York real estate? Will Paul attend his daughter’s piano recital, or will he entertain the Australian moneymen with whom he and Marty are trying to close a majorly lucrative business deal? It should come as little surprise that in the course of all this hefty decision making, the women are given irritatingly short shrift: Their men may be losers, but they’re the ones on the losing end of Young’s script, which gives them little to do besides gripe about their husbands and discuss their masturbation habits — at least, when they’re not taking yoga classes or maxing out their credit cards.
Searle and Armbruster are in purely reactive mode here, registering well enough to make you wish they’d been cast as something other than two high-strung shrews. Callen and Rapaport are likable enough with their boisterous, barely differentiated portraits of male buffoonery, while Stamos coasts along on charisma, even showing off his singing and guitar-playing chops in the climactic scene. The song is sweet; the realization that the movie is over, even sweeter.