Competent and smart, "Crazy, Stupid, Love" is anything but.
Because it features an ensemble of people who can't quite get love straight, it reminds me a little of "Love, Actually." Also, as does "Love, Actually," its good-hearted script really likes the characters - and you will, too.
The show opens with tragedy. Cal (Steve Carrell) learns from his wife Emily (Julianne Moore), to whom he has been married 25 years, that she has slept with another man (Kevin Bacon) and that she wants a divorce. Cal simply cannot believe it and his heart breaks instantly.
He continues to go through the motions at work, where his colleagues are relieved to discover he doesn't have cancer, that what's bothering him is "just" a divorce. He moves out of his house and finds himself drinking regularly in a cocktail lounge, where, sometimes to thin air, he divulges the reasons for his sorrows.
This is where he meets ladies' man Jacob (Ryan Gosling), who watches Cal with a mixture of sympathy and disdain. One night, Jacob makes Cal an offer: He will transform Cal into the man he's meant to be and Cal soon will have his wife regretting that she ever considered cheating on him.
Jacob tells Cal how to dress, what to say and, most importantly, what not to say. Cal watches in awe as, night after night, Jacob picks up great-looking women with his smooth-as-silk delivery. Jacob's instruction works, and Cal finds himself going home with a variety of different women.
Meanwhile, Cal's son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) has declared his love for his baby sitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton). Jessica has her eyes on an older man, however, and continues to rebuff the besotted Robbie's advances.
Cal and Jacob enjoy swapping tales and going on the prowl together until Jacob finds a woman he really doesn't know how to handle. Could it be that the player of all players actually has a heart?
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Carrell does a wonderful job of playing a nice guy who's hurting and whose bumbling makes matters worse ("Dan in Real Life," for example). He and Moore have great chemistry, even when they're not onscreen together: Watch their reactions to each other when she calls him, little knowing he is outside a window watching her.
The script has a couple of neat twists that add to the entertainment. You'd have to be crazy or stupid not to like this.