In an early scene, 13-year-old Robbie (Jonah Bobo) sums up the plot of Crazy, Stupid, Love when he tells his dad Cal (Steve Carell) two simple words: "Love sucks." Robbie believes this because he has a huge crush on Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), his 17-year-old babysitter, who thinks he's just a kid—and who's secretly hot for Robbie's dad. Cal, meanwhile, agrees with Robbie because Emily (Julianne Moore), his high school sweetheart and wife of 25 years, has just told him she had an affair and is divorcing him.

Then we meet Hannah (Emma Stone), who is dating a "nice enough" coworker named Richard (played by a wincingly awkward Josh Groban) and fending off horrible pickup lines from players when she goes out with her friends. And even Emily is emotionally wrought over leaving Cal to see if things play out with her office paramour, the homewrecking David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon).

Steve Carell as Cal

Steve Carell as Cal

Pretty much, everyone's a mess.

But Cal, our main mess, begins to find hope in, of all places, the local bar, where he's retreated to drown his pain. Tired of listening to Cal's sad-sack rambling night after night, player extraordinaire Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling) agrees to take on Cal—and over the coming weeks he transforms him from Supercuts and stammering to tailored suits and swagger. Think the shopping spree makeover scenes from Pretty Woman with a suburbanite guy and his metrosexual mentor instead of a leggy prostitute. In other words, movie gold.

The delightful cast, the snappy dialogue, and the twisty plot lines make some of the familiar rom-com terrain seem fresh and fun. Carell is certainly in familiar territory here as a lovable loser (more Dan in Real Life here than The Office). It's no surprise he endears us as Cal. The real surprise here is Gosling—not just because he's astonishingly buff, but mostly because he's hilarious. It's hard to believe this is the same actor who gave us impressive dramatic turns in Lars and the Real Girl and Half Nelson. He's deliciously naughty as Jacob, and seems to be having a blast as he glides up to pretty barflies and educates Cal about why he simply cannot wear sneakers. His enjoyment is infectious, as is the great chemistry this unlikely duo shares.

Unfortunately, they have most of this chemistry while bedding a string of hot, vapid women. These females are embarrassingly easy and this womanizing pair takes full advantage. But for those of us who watch these scenes with vastly different values about love and relationships, thankfully the story doesn't end there.

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Cal gets some pointers from Jacob (Ryan Gosling)

Cal gets some pointers from Jacob (Ryan Gosling)

Jacob meets someone—remember Hannah?—who makes him question his womanizing ways. And after experiencing the complications of casual sex, Cal realizes he's still in love with his wife. Some of these plot turns are a bit predictable and convenient and some come with the kind of snappy, cheesy dialogue that only happens in the movies. Mostly Crazy, Stupid, Love gets away with this because it's giving us a fun ride and, as all good movies do, taking us to a place where we want such cheesy convenient things to be possible.

Though love stops sucking by the end of the movie and deeper ideas about relationships and commitment prevail, many Christians will still squirm through parts of this film. Sex doesn't mean a lot here, but there are some moments that acknowledge that fact with keen insight, such as when Jacob tells Cal, "The war between the sexes is done. We won. We won when women started pole dancing for exercise." We get peeks at the loneliness and messy consequences of casual sex and commitment-less relationships.

Julianne Moore as Emily

Julianne Moore as Emily

What's more bothersome is the behavior of the teen characters. Especially when 17-year-old Jessica takes nude pictures of herself to try to prove to her adult-crush Cal that she's a sexy woman to be taken seriously (thankfully we don't see any of the nudity). Though her plans go awry, it's all played for laughs. And the pictures are given to another guy—a young teen—at movie's end.

In age of sexting and lewd fashions for teen and even tween girls, and when many of these sweet young things have no idea of the oversexed messages they're sending the world, this plotline feels pretty irresponsible. When Jessica gives the pictures away, it seems powerful and alluring. But how will she feel when the guy she gives them to passes them to all his friends and then posts them on the Internet? That angle isn't shown, and any young, impressionable minds who see the film need to keep that very real possibility in mind.

Honestly, I wanted to give the movie a higher star rating, but this plotline and a couple other scenes just bothered me so much that they marred my enjoyment. Without these, I would have given the film three stars.

Emma Stone as Hannah

Emma Stone as Hannah

All that said, even with these various concerns, Crazy, Stupid, Love still isn't nearly as gross and vulgar as many other recent romantic comedies. And it's not the shallow, uber-predicable fluff that makes 14-year-old girls cry and most of the rest of us gag. As a genre, romantic comedies have been having a bit of an identity crisis in recent years. But Crazy, Stupid, Love is a smart, solid entry in the shaky rom-com world.

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Despite the moral hiccups (or coughing fits, depending on your perspective), I suspect that by the end of the movie you'll be smiling at the winning ensemble and their laugh-out-loud antics. And because at the end of this intelligent romantic comedy we realize that it's people who are crazy and stupid, and love is this precious gift that's worth fighting for. And that's the kind of inspiring, feel-good message we usually file into movie theaters to see.

Talk About It

Discussion starters
  1. Which character in the film best represents you and your thoughts about love and relationships? Why?
  2. When Emily tells Cal she wants a divorce, she tells him they "stopped being us." Jacob tells Cal they split up because he lost sight of who he was as a man and a lover. Cal regrets not fighting for their relationship. Why do you think they split up?
  3. What do you think about Jacob's statement that men won the battle of the sexes when women started taking pole-dancing classes for exercise? What other examples in our culture point to one gender or the other as "winning" this war? What does winning, in this context, even mean?
  4. What factors have made Jacob become the man he is? Do you think he's happy? Why are women drawn to him?
  5. Did the nude photo scene bother you? And if so, what role do the morals portrayed in a film have on your overall enjoyment of the movie?

The Family Corner

For parents to consider

Crazy, Stupid, Love is rated PG-13 for course humor, sexual content, and language. Take all of these warnings seriously. As mentioned in the review, Jessica, a 17-year-old character, takes nude pictures of herself—then gives them to a 13-year-old boy who has a crush on her. This could be a good conversation-starter about sexting and such with older teens, but certainly needs to be contextualized and discussed in light of your morals as a family as this behavior isn't truly shown as wrong in the film. In an earlier scene, Jessica walks in on the 13-year-old masturbating (again, we don't see anything). This 13-year-old character, Robbie, goes on a swearing rant in English class one day, saying "a-hole" about a dozen times. The adults don't behave so well either. Robbie's parents, Cal and Emily, split up because Emily had an affair. Cal then goes on a womanizing binge and sleeps with about eight other women in a string of one-night stands. By the end of the film we see some real love commitments, but it's a long, kinda lewd journey to get there.

Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Our Rating
2½ Stars - Fair
Average Rating
(15 user ratings)ADD YOURSHelp
Mpaa Rating
PG-13 (for coarse humor, sexual content and language)
Directed By
Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Run Time
1 hour 58 minutes
Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore
Theatre Release
July 29, 2011 by Warner Brothers
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