Riding the sick/sweet bandwagon of today’s raunch-rom-coms, She’s Out of My League isn’t anything out-of-the-way special. But thanks to the irrepressible likeability of Jay Baruchel and a supporting cast ripe with comic potential, the movie ends up scoring a sloppy (and filthy) low-expectations win.
It might be humanly impossible to hate Jay Baruchel. (I realize the moment I say that dozens of you miscreants will come out of the woodwork pronouncing just how much you dislike the skinny Canadian comic actor.) I’ve known that since the short-lived 2001 sit-com Undeclared (or maybe it was his manic bit role as the Zeppelin-obsessed fan in Almost Famous). Others may have noticed him in Knocked Up and Tropic Thunder.
In 2010 Hollywood has bet big on Baruchel’s irresistible underdog appeal. How to Train Your Dragon was a delightfully surprising success, but that was voice work—terrific, spot-on voice work, but not a full display of Baruchel’s powers. The Sorceror’s Apprentice will be his first starring role in a big, super-hyped, summer tentpole franchise flick. But in between came She’s Out of My League, a small, Apatow-esque raunch-com that truly puts Baruchel’s “aw-shucks” charm to the test.
Other than Baruchel, She’s Out of My League has no official connection to Judd Apatow, but it clearly wants to follow in his stylistic footsteps. Guys in perpetual arrested development try to grow up and deal with those strange and baffling creatures of the opposite sex. And characters push the polite-company boundaries of crudity (male genitalia and body fluids are the usual topic of discussion, if not openly on display) while still sporting a sincerely sweet heart.
Baruchel plays Kirk, a likable, luckless-in-love schmuck whose job as a TSA airport security guard leads to a meet cute with Alice Eve’s gorgeous Molly. The two begin dating against the advice of their respective pals, and despite Kirk’s fear that—as the title subtly suggests—she’s out of his league.
Misguided Guy Advice is the driving theme in She’s Out of My League, but thankfully the actors lined up as Kirk’s “romantic” advisors are plenty amusing. T.J. Miller was the goofy guy with the camera in Cloverfield, but this is his chance to let his freak flag fly—a flag stitched together from scraps of Will Ferrell, Seth Rogen, and even a touch of Jon Heder’s Napoleon Dynamite. It all works for Miller—his lunkhead character Stain bulldozes in and dominates most of his scenes and owns all the best lines.
(NOTE: Thanks to Spaz for reminding me what I noticed back in March but forgot this time around: The actor T.J. Miller is most reminiscent of vocally and attitude-wise is Jason Lee, especially Lee’s debut in Mallrats.)
Nate Torrence and Mike Vogel nicely round out Kirk’s questionable “support” team, and Kyle Bornheimer is another to watch—as Kirk’s moronic brother Dylan, Bornheimer steals every scene Miller hasn’t already swiped. On the girl-pal side, Krysten Ritter of Breaking Bad and Confessions of a Shopoholic remains darkly, sardonically appealing—enough so that you hope she finds a way out of these typical “weird friend” roles in rom-coms.
Still, She’s Out of My League has to sink or swim on the talents of Baruchel and Eve. Fortunately they share a no-fuss charm and low-impact chemistry. Maybe She’s Out of My League is too slight and sketchy to fully swim, but Barachel and Eve keep it dog-paddling along.
Baruchel’s a brooding Montgomery Clift crossed with hang-dog Jimmy Stewart—all of it poured into a Jerry Lewis gangly, bobble-headed Everyman. That may not sound like the most appealing of combos on paper, but the actor’s perpetual fade-away state of disbelief and discouragement makes it work. And the British Eve is a welcome find: Not only do Eve’s pert nose and warm smile take the edge off her scary sultriness, but the script makes Molly a competent, un-neurotic, well-rounded person—a welcome change of pace from the usual Type-A freak-show females populating these movies.
All this fills She’s Out of My League with just enough likable and laughable performances to make you wish it was a little better flick overall. Like underachieving Kirk, the movie doesn’t have much in the way of point or purpose, but thanks to its cast it stumbles easily enough into humor and—intentional offensives aside—a lazy, watchable likeability.