How Do You Know a movie just doesn’t work? You look at the people around you as the credits roll and nobody’s saying much of anything – good or bad. The movie is so-so at best. It’s a shame, ‘cause I really wanted to like it. We’re so overdue for a good romantic comedy this holiday season!!! So what happened?

The premise was promising enough. Reese Witherspoon and the equally-affable Paul Rudd play Lisa and George – two lost souls who meet up (through a mutual friend) on what is probably the worst day of their personal and professional lives.

She is a veteran softball player (at the ripe old age of 31) who’s just been cut from the USA team. He is a straight-arrow businessman about to get indicted for financial crimes that are never really explained in the movie. Jack Nicholson plays George’s self-centered father and Owen Wilson rounds out the cast as Lisa’s narcissistic boyfriend Matty, a total dufus who somehow earns millions pitching for the Washington Nationals.

I certainly expected better from writer/director James L. Brooks (The Simpsons, As Good As It Gets, Broadcast News). He had a good cast to work with, but the story just never came together. Witherspoon and Rudd are pretty darn cute, but the material fails them. And Wilson… well, he just plays his usual goofy self. You spend most of the movie wondering why he and Lisa ever got together in the first place. Ditto for Rudd’s character and the insensitive girlfriend who breaks up with him in the first half-hour. There’s no justification for the love triangle that ultimately forms between George, Lisa and Matty. And the “stakes” never feel all that high – or legitimate – for anybody. The whole thing is a bit of a mess. However, it’s not nearly as bad as Little Fockers, which I saw the very next night. That movie helped put this one into better perspective. How Do You Know isn’t bad. It just isn’t good. So don’t waste your money. Besides, I’m guessing you’ll be able to see it on-demand and on the airline feature circuit soon enough.

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