A charmer from the school of Apatow, “She’s Out of My League” takes a fantasy dating situation and tries to tilt it toward a sense of realism while retaining all the required silly business. Without reinventing the wheel or resisting the lure of lazy gross-out jokes, the picture gets by on a funky, winning cast and the occasional, ever-so-faint, squint-to-see-it moment of emotional truth the genre typically treats like a nasty infection. As goofball as it is, “She’s Out of My League” shows a surprising conscience to go along with its frat-house humor.
A TSA officer working a Pittsburgh airport with his buddies (Nate Torrence, and T.J. Miller and Mike Vogel from “Cloverfield”), Kirk (Jay Baruchel, “Knocked Up”) is a geeky guy with zero self-confidence due to a nasty break-up with his ex-girlfriend, Marnie (Lindsay Sloane). Helping Molly (Alice Eve, “Crossing Over”) out while on duty, Kirk inadvertently charms the gorgeous young event planner, and his follow-up visit to return a cell phone kicks off an unexpected relationship. Now flush with anxiety over the prospect of dating a seemingly perfect woman (a “10” to his “5”), Kirk fights his insecurity with the help of his friends, though the effort just might not be enough to prevent the skittish young man from ruining the best thing that’s ever happened to him.
The plot for “She’s Out of My League” is generic tripe aimed at the aforementioned Apatow demographic of schlubs who would love to find themselves facing Kirk’s tantalizing situation. It’s an easy lay-up of a story with room for loutish best friends, semen-based humiliations, and plenty of comedic worry. The script by Sean Anders and John Morris immediately establishes a routine journey for Kirk, but the direction by Jim Field Smith bends matters intriguingly. It’s a sort of second-guessing style of filmmaking that helps to pull the picture out of the muck of cliche and onto steady comedic ground.
“League” is unquestionably rough around the edges, with the story lurching from scene to scene, causing a routine of puzzlement that dilutes the overall relationship arc for Kirk and Molly. However, Smith has a healthy sense of humor and an interest in keeping the picture as good-natured as possible, while still tending to the Farrellyesque bodily function humor I’m sure he was contractually obligated to display. “League” is a shockingly friendly film, trumping the moronic content by allowing the characters to reveal some personality behind the quips, while permitting Kirk and Molly to ebb and flow as a couple instead of just burning through the cartoon conflict. I appreciated Smith’s attempt to thwart the script’s idiotic itches, finding more compelling angles to the story though a welcome sense of location and anxiousness, typically relieved through honest communication.
“League” has a few moments of refreshing candor to ease Kirk and Molly together as a viable couple. The characters do actually like each other, and their communication creates believable attraction while the rest of the script creates one-dimensional roadblocks to appease the pushover romantic comedy crowd. The worst offense is the character of Cam (played by the bland Geoff Stults), Molly’s ex-boyfriend and an alpha male type employed to artificially crank up Kirk’s neuroses to point of implosion. It’s a brainless plot development that showcases how lazy the script actually is, where just simply exploring Kirk’s doubt in the face of blinding feminine perfection would be more than enough to agitate his developing sense of bodily shame.
It’s a crime the filmmakers aren’t confident enough to trust elementary matters of tattered self-worth, which is far more relatable than any manipulative stud from the screenplay 101 textbook. Baruchel does a fine job expressing Kirk’s twitchy awkwardness, mixing grimaces with reluctance, sharing tremendous chemistry with Eve, who conveys a whir of intelligence about Molly that keeps the character within high-heeled dream status without indulging the helium sex kitten routine. The leads are wonderful, surround by a tart supporting cast of engaging, amazingly palatable wiseacres.
The airport break-up-to-make-up finale is a disappointment, but Smith can only fend off formula for so long before the producers start to notice. It’s best to appreciate what the feature gets right than dwell on the stupidity it succumbs to. Generously funny, sporadically heartfelt, and infinitesimally honest, “She’s Out of My League” shows surprising signs of life. For a big dumb comedy about losers and hotties, the toil to capture any sort of dimension is welcome.Rating: B