Anna Faris has a truly enviable quality about her. It’s one that makes her nigh-on impossible to dislike whilst onscreen, one that manages to ooze an easy charm, no matter the level of mediocrity surrounding her. It’s the very same quality that makes her the quintessential air-head blonde, the quality that made her far and beyond the best thing about the Scary Movie franchise. I’d go as far as to declare Anna Faris as one of the finest comediennes in cinema today, which makes her seeming inability to land a project worthy of her talents all the more of a shame. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said, “Ehh…the movie wasn’t great but Anna Faris was” then I’d have … I don’t know, about eight dollars or so. Which, frankly, is eight dollars too many. Something tells me Faris would have flourished in the era of the screwball comedy. Unfortunately, this is 2011 and the 1930s are long behind us; sadly, we’ll never see her under the direction of Billy Wilder or Howard Hawks. What’s Your Number? – produced by Faris herself — appears to be a sign of the star taking matter into her own hands, although it succeeds in varying degrees. It actually does manage to be occasionally funny, with a crackling chemistry between the two leads. Miraculously, What’s Your Number? achieves this despite a lack of originality within the goings-on and sadly missed opportunities for real social commentary.
The titular “number” in question refers to the number of people one has slept with, or at least, the number that is deemed to be acceptable. According to a magazine Ally Darling (Faris) reads immediately after getting fired, women who sleep with over twenty men are much less likely to land themselves a marriage proposal than those at the “national average of 10.5″. Seeing as she’s teetering on the precipice of that particular statistic at a total of 19 partners, and seeing as she’s helping her younger sister Daisy (Ari Graynor; Whip It) plan her wedding, Ally decides to sift through her former lovers to see if any have evolved into anything worthy of revisiting. Assisting Ally in her silly (and episodic) quest is Colin (Chris Evans; Captain America), her womanizing and almost always shirtless neighbour. Ally wades through the rejects, battles her overbearing mother (Blythe Danner; Little Fockers) and trips over herself the requisite amount of times for a romantic comedy, all the while oblivious to the man of her dreams right under her nose. If you’re on a quest for innovation and originality, you’ll not be finding it here.
That being said, however, I found myself enjoying my time with What’s Your Number? Anna Faris is, as always, the right amount of endearingly-ditzy blonde. Her malleable face, the always-surprised eyes, and her ability to actually incite laughter while taking a pratfall; they all work wonders in her favour. While I didn’t feel any sort of profound emotional connection to Ally, at least one can safely say that she’s enjoyable and amusing company. Colin too is hardly a deviation from the usual rom-com womaniser-until-he-meets-our-heroine romantic lead, but Chris Evans does a pleasingly charismatic and likable job of portraying him. Ally and Colin share and engage in the usual plot points one would expect; lazing and laughing around the house together, a romantic drink on a rooftop, a night of crazy daring antics — Break into a basketball stadium! Jump into the harbour! — to cement their emotional connection, an argument right when they’re oh so close to getting together, and (of course) a post-fight sprint through the city in which Ally destroys a perfectly awful dress as she races back to the man of her dreams.
What’s irritating about What’s Your Number? isn’t that it’s not enjoyable for what it is, but because of the missed opportunities littered throughout. Ally’s run-ins with her ex-boyfriends are for the most part funny, but they really could have been much funnier (Andy Samberg in particular is sorely underused). Similarly, after the film’s opening, I was hoping for some social commentary regarding the double standard for men and women when it comes to “sleeping around”, or at least something a little insightful as to what constitutes a “whore” or a failure vs marriage material. I suppose as a message “you’ll find a man who loves you for who you are no matter how much you’ve slept around” is a good one in the end. Unfortunately, in place of insight and edginess was fluff, and a spunky female lead on a frantic quest to find a husband before she becomes some sort of ruined woman. Disappointing, to say the least. Admittedly, these gripes surface during 95% of rom-coms I watch, but it was of particular irritation during What’s Your Number? given the premise, and therefore the opportunity for interesting observations. With all that in mind however, it’s testament to Anna Faris and Chris Evans that I actually forgot my complaints and actually had a right old laugh at a fair few points. Of particular hilarity is a sequence featuring Martin Freeman, which sees Ally’s fake British accent descend into the realms of Eliza Doolittle and, yes, Borat.
What’s Your Number? isn’t going to blow you away. It’s not raunchy enough, it’s not insightful enough, and it could have been funnier. Still, the performances and chemistry of the leads do wonders to elevate the material, as do a number of the ex-boyfriends encountered. This is the latest in the slew of female-driven raunchy rom-coms, but unfortunately Bridesmaids it is not. Better luck next time, Ms Faris.