After the heavy dramatic lifting of Black Swan, you can’t fault Oscar favorite Natalie Portman for signing up for some romcom R&R. It’s too bad she couldn’t have landed a less generic vehicle than No Strings Attached. Portman plays Emma, a work-stressed medical resident who has no time to develop a real relationship. But Emma likes dick, so she latches on to Adam (Ashton Kutcher), who has one. These friends with benefits bang away like rabbits until — all together now, people! — they fall in love. This plot has been recycled since cave dwellers first drew pictures on walls. In fact, a film actually called Friends With Benefits, starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, opens this summer.
What’s in this cliché grab bag for moviegoers? Well, Portman and Kutcher are a cute mismatch. She’s short to his tall, sassy to his sweet, etc. I dried up here. So does the movie. Veteran comedy director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters, hello!) distracts from the void at the center of Elizabeth Meriwether’s script by throwing in a mad-funny Kevin Kline as Adam’s vain TV-star dad. And Lake Bell uses the role of the fast-talking ditz who crushes on Adam to steal scenes (it’s petty larceny). Since Portman exec-produced this cinematic hairball, she gets the blame if audiences cough it up.