Lucy Sherrington (Alison Brie) is a do-gooder in the finest Capraesque tradition of small town Americana. She is a popular high school teacher, her dad is the mayor, and everybody likes her, but perhaps a bit too much; she is the object of the besotted affection of every male in town. Lucy suffers their attentions with patience and good humour, but is only interested in married football coach Clint Coburn (Colin Hanks). When Clint sneaks out one night to visit Lucy at home, Clint falls into a large hole that magically appears in her living. With Clint trapped in the hole, the entire town turns out to look for him, including Rydell (Justin Chatwin), a novice loan shark to whom Clint owes gambling debts.
No Stranger Than Love takes an outlandish concept and runs headlong into weird and quirky territory, playing like a cutesy Charlie Kaufman movie, or something in the Michel Gondry ballpark. Unfortunately, it’s lacking the crucial ingredient of those movies– a good story.
It scores some points for attempting something different, and an unusual idea feels like a rare commodity when there is such an abundance of remakes and uninspired sequels doing the rounds. But ultimately, No Stranger Than Love struggles to lift itself out of rote rom-com territory.
Attempting to blend a cartoon reality with a more traditional romantic comedy structure, the muddled story jumps around and struggles to make sense, even within the rules of its own universe. The dialogue is unnatural and, at times, excruciating. Characters deliver odd, almost stream-of-consciousness speeches on the nature of love that are not so much profound as they are meandering and without any real substance.
And if one wanted to be really uncharitable, we also might consider that having Lucy deal with unwanted male attention with a smile and an eye roll might not be the most positive message to send, regardless of the film’s cartoonish and hyper-real setting.
Colin Hanks feels underused as Clint Colburn. After falling down the hole ““ like something from a Wile E. Coyote cartoon ““ he exists more as a dislikeable plot device than a character. Justin Chatwin does little to convince as either sensitive soul or reluctant thug. And although Alison Brie has charisma to burn, doing her best with what’s available, it’s not enough to save a movie with characterisation so half-baked.
No Stranger Than Love feels like it probably started out in reasonable shape – a romantic comedy with a quirky, indie sensibility, but the concept far outweighed execution. What we’re left with at the end, for all its pretence of originality and weirdness, is barely even tepid.
THE REEL SCORE: 3/10