A commitment to likability takes the edge off this slow-moving romantic ensembler.
Romance plus bromance equals slow-mance in “The Perfect Match,” a sleepy ensemble romantic comedy in “The Best Man” mold that starts with one-night stands, ends with a wedding, and spendsd the middle curing a hopeless lothario. An attractive and appealing cast helps this formulaic pablum go down easy, but the genial tone buffs the edge out of every element: The bro-bonding is jocular but never raunchy, the sex scenes never outpace their slow-jam R&B accompaniment, and the hero is never so much of a cad that he can’t win everyone back with an ingratiating smile. The pic’s commitment to likability extends a dozen actors deep in its roster — a game Joe Pantoliano takes the fall, as is his wont — but there’s not much spark to being so relentlessly agreeable. Released by Lionsgate through its Codeblack shingle, this modest production should score modest returns from a weekend or two of date nights, but Cupid’s arrow will fly a little south of the bullseye.
Then again, perhaps it will score in another platform. “The Perfect Match” will date itself by the triangulation of popular social-media sites and apps dropped into casual conversation: Instagram, Vine, YouTube, Snapchat, and a yet-to-be-invented retina-scanning blocking app are the transactional currency exchanged by Charlie (Terrence J), an entertainment agent nearing a Jerry Maguire meltdown. (One of his clients, a singer, claims to be a Vine star, which makes you wonder how much vibrato she can squeeze into eight seconds.) Charlie has made a fortune cutting deals and catering to superstars — including a diva played by Brandy Norwood who’s so pampered, she gets carried around like a baby — but his true passion is for photography and he longs to leap from Instagram sensation to the professional ranks.
Being handsome, charming and wealthy, Charlie has no trouble picking up women, but shows little interest in keeping them. So his buddies, Victor (Robert Christopher Riley) and Rick (Donald Faison) challenge him to pick one woman and stay with her for the month leading up to Victor’s wedding. As serendipity would have it, Charlie meets the ideal partner in the gorgeous Eva (Cassie Ventura), who happens to order the same crazily specific drink at the juice bar he frequents. The two are operating at cross purposes: Charlie, whose dates never last beyond the morning after, is looking for commitment for the first time, while Eva, who’s only been in long-term relationships, wants to try a fling on for size. Charlie and Eva hit it off beautifully, but with the wedding approaching in a few weeks, the carriage is scheduled to turn back into a pumpkin.
“The Perfect Match” busies itself with more subplots than it needs, making sure that everyone on its bench gets into the game. Victor stresses over wedding plans with Ginger (Lauren London), his bride-to-be, because she wants an expensive reception and he doesn’t have the money to pay for it. Rick and his wife, Pressie (Dascha Polanco), have been trying to conceive for seven months without success, and it’s turned their sex life into work. The script, by Brandon Broussard and Gary Hardwick, treads unconvincingly into the talent-agency office culture — as in “Empire,” one would-be mogul scoots around on a hoverboard — and Paula Patton turns up as Charlie’s therapist sister, who ties his loveless lifestyle to their parents’ death.
That angle does add one sliver of novelty to “The Perfect Match,” which is more concerned with proving Charlie’s basic capacity for love than finding him the ideal mate. That complicates his affair with Eva, and it further complicates a series of romantic subplots that are supposed to resolve themselves in time for a high-spirited wedding celebration. The film cheats its way out of this jam in the denouement, and its treatment of Charlie’s hang-ups have an absurd pop-psychological neatness to it. But credit the filmmakers for refusing to believe that a lifelong skirt-chaser could be converted overnight.
Director Bille Woodruff, a music-video specialist with a filmography full of retreads — he was responsible for the “Barbershop” spinoff “Beauty Shop,” and sequels to “Bring It On” and “Drumline,” and the two-going-on-three “Honey” movies — has mostly made another one here. The focus on curvaceous bodies and a soundtrack thick with hip-hop and R&B singles doesn’t take him far from his video comfort zone, but the lethargic, episodic rhythms of “The Perfect Match” have none of the snap. Here, love is a wonderless thing.