Rated R for sexual content, language and some drug material, 110 minutes
Kutcher, Portman a likable team in "No Strings Attached"
If there ever a movie couple you were rooting for, it'd be Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman, in the predictable but likable new rom com "No Strings Attached." By now, you've probably have seen the ads, but the premise is a familar one: the two leads engage in a "friends with benefits" or "sex friends"-type relationship to keep their relationship less complicated. This is far more pleasant than you want it to be and the engaging leads bring it a notch above other movies in this genre, even if you know exactly where it's going to end up.
Kutcher is Adam and Portman is Emma, childhood pals who forge an unlikely friendship over the years that turns into a strictly a sexual relationship only, a contemporary term called "friends with benefits." This seems to work well especially for the busy Emma, who is working long hours to complete her residency at a local hospital, and Adam, an assistant on a high school-themed TV show. However, as we all know by now, relationships carry with them far more complications than just sex, and the two must either decide to carry on a serious relationship or go their separate ways.
"No Strings Attached" is a charming but calculated romantic comedy that might exceed your expectations, given this time of the year isn't a great time for films (Nicolas Cage, The Green Hornet and Vince Vaughn, take note!). It helps that it has two enormously appealing leads in Kutcher and Portman, the latter of whom is playing it far less intense here than her recent, award-winning turn in the psychological drama "Black Swan." Second, it also helps that the director is veteran Ivan Reitman (of "Ghostbusters" and "Twins" fame and father to Jason Reitman), whose steady hand keeps things from going awry, or in this case, keeps Kutcher from mugging for the camera too much.
"No Strings Attached" also benefits from a stellar supporting cast that clicks well, something that is often hard to come by these days. Oscar-winner Kevin Kline is hilarious as Kutcher's famous father, and he promptly steals every scene he's in (and by the way, the birthday song he sings to Kutcher is a tune the talented Kline wrote himself). Lake Bell, Ludacris, Jake Johnson and "The Office's" Mindy Kaling all contribute a few good laughs along the way; yes, the film is a tad raunchy but mostly in good fun (it's R rating comes mostly from the strong language, not the sex scenes, which are actually pretty tame for a film about "sex friends").
You have a sense even by seeing the trailers for the film of where the charming but mildly forgettable "No Strings Attached" will end up, after all this is Hollywood's most predictable genre, and in many ways it takes far too long to get there. But the cast and director's seemingly unaffected approach and likable performances will grab you and touch you before you can say "friends with benefits." Fun yet absorbing, this is a great date movie and exactly what the recent "Love and Other Drugs" should've been but wasn't.