They may be funny and endearing, but most romantic comedies are pure fluff, so when a love story rolls around sporting some substance, it's like finding a diamond in the rough. 'Crazy Stupid Love' is one of those films, that rare rom-com animal that appeals equally to men and women, and possesses an agenda beyond the stale boy-meets-girl premise. Though it often follows the genre's tutorial to a T, this drama-spiked concoction laces many of its situations with a liberal dose of underlying truth, which draws us deeper into the action and, at times, sparks enough personal identification to provoke a strong emotional response. Glenn Ficara and John Requa's film (the duo also directed another biting comedy, 'I Love You Phillip Morris,' and wrote 'Bad Santa') is polished, even a bit slick, but a few raw moments cut through the gloss just enough to make us reflect on our own lives and relationships.
'Crazy Stupid Love' recalls 'Love Actually' in the way it depicts various forms and stages of romance spanning different generations - puppy love, adolescent pining, indiscriminate bed-hopping, marital malaise, and workplace affairs. And like a neat package, all the loose ends tie up snugly by the time the closing credits roll. Dan Fogelman's screenplay emphasizes personal growth, deeming it a necessary element in a successful long-term union, and promotes the ultra-romantic notion of soul mates, but shies away from preachy monologues and mammoth epiphanies to make its points. The script isn't exactly subtle, but it's smart enough to let many of its poignant moments speak for themselves. And when it does hit us over the head with an idea or theme, it does so with a fair degree of eloquence, so we're more willing to absorb the blow.
When Emily Weaver (Julianne Moore) casually tells her husband of two-plus decades over dinner that she's having an affair with a co-worker (Kevin Bacon) and wants a divorce, the shell-shocked Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) vacates their plush suburban home and resigns himself to a life of liquor-laced loneliness...until he spies the womanizing ways of lothario Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling) at a local bar. The quintessential chick magnet, Jacob never goes home alone, and offers to take the stodgy Cal under his wing, educating him on the finer points of seduction, masculinity, and self-esteem. Soon Cal becomes a new man and expert pick-up artist, but one-night stands don't satisfy his soul or fill the gaping void left by Emily.
Meanwhile, a strait-laced law student (Emma Stone) decides to spice up her dull life by pursuing the commitment-phobic Jacob, who becomes blind-sided by his feelings for her; Cal's 13-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) boldly pursues his 17-year-old babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), who just happens to harbor a lustful crush on the much older Cal; and Emily deals with her ambiguous feelings for the man who broke up her marriage. That's a lot on a single movie's plate, but somehow 'Crazy Stupid Love' manages the traffic.
A couple of surprising twists and revelations spice things up and almost derail the enterprise, but just when you think 'Crazy Stupid Love' is about to crazily and stupidly careen off a cliff, it makes a sharp turn away from the precipice and rights itself, coasting to a warm and satisfying conclusion without any saccharine overtones. That's tough for a film of this sort to do, especially when dealing with so many converging plot threads, so kudos must go to the top-notch cast for keeping this movie afloat and out of the muck.
Chemistry is essential in an ensemble comedy, and the actors here exude a refreshing naturalness that makes their interactions believable, even when the situations aren't. On paper, Carell and Gosling would seem like an even odder couple than they play on screen, but their partnership beautifully gels. Ditto Carell and the luminous Moore, who peppers her emotional scenes with just the right comedic touches. Stone lights up the action whenever she appears with a unique vitality and mesmerizing presence that makes it impossible to imagine anyone not falling in love with her, and her interplay with Gosling is marvelous. I just wish she had more scenes.
And that's one of the film's pitfalls - it concentrates too heavily on the men. Still, it's refreshing to see a romantic comedy told from the male viewpoint. 'Crazy Stupid Love' doesn't always do everything well (what rom-com does?), but the points it makes about marriage, commitment, and faith in love resonate more strongly here than in similar films. And that goes a long way toward making it a success.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Crazy Stupid Love' arrives on Blu-ray packaged in a standard case that houses the Blu-ray disc, a DVD copy disc, and a special code for the Ultraviolet Digital Copy that will stream directly to your computer, tablet, or smartphone. Video codec is 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 and the default audio is English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Before the static menu with music pops up, there are previews for 'Happy Feet Two' and 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.'
'Crazy Stupid Love' looks smooth as silk on Blu-ray. The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer from Warner is struck from a pristine print, with no specks, marks, or scratches marring the viewing experience. A faint amount of grain adds texture and warmth to the image, but never interferes with clarity. Contrast is well pitched and colors are lush and nicely saturated without appearing artificial. The green lawns of suburbia are especially well rendered, and various wardrobe items, such as Marisa Tomei's blue dress and Moore's purple ensemble, exude welcome vibrancy. Fleshtones look natural and stable throughout, and close-ups highlight fine facial details well.
Blacks are rich, inky, and rock solid, yet even in the dark, dingy bar scenes crush is never an issue, nor is digital noise. Shadow detail is strong and background items and fabrics are well delineated. Even better, no banding, edge enhancement, or noise reduction distracts from the picture's overall crispness and sheen, which goes a long way toward drawing us in and making the action more intimate. Though the image never really dazzles, this is a high-quality, easy-on-the-eyes effort that perfectly suits the film.
A full-bodied DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track accompanies the movie and, for the most part, provides clear, well-modulated sound. There aren't a lot of complex effects jockeying for attention, but the straightforward elements come across well. Some gentle atmospherics bleed into the rear speakers to provide a subtle surround feel, and the various soundtrack tunes possess escellent fidelity and dynamic range. The mix is generally well balanced, with the clatter and cacophony of the bar scenes never overwhelming the character interactions, although at times the heavy bass frequencies add too much weight to vocal timbres, making certain conversations a tad difficult to understand. On the whole, though, dialogue is nicely prioritized, and various background accents and fine details are distinct.
Romantic comedies don't often blow the roof off the joint, but the 'Crazy Stupid Love' track possesses a little more sonic oomph than most and offers a pleasing multi-channel experience.
Only a few negligible supplements are included.
A fine cast and perceptive script distinguish 'Crazy Stupid Love,' and the identifiable story and likeable personalities, led by Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, and especially Emma Stone (with whom I'm undeniably smitten) help loft this romantic comedy-drama above others in its class. Supplements are a bit thin, but solid video and audio transfers make the film a pleasure to watch on Blu-ray, preferably with someone you love. Definitely a good date night flick, even for guys allergic to the genre.