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Movie Review

A by-the-numbers romantic comedy

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By Wesley Morris
Globe Staff / September 30, 2011

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There’s nothing new in “What’s Your Number?’’ It’s that awkward, tedious monster mash of “chick flick’’ and romantic comedy - a flatulent issue of Glamour in a Hildy Johnson hat. What it does confirm is that neither genre is an easy home for the lunatic skills of Anna Faris, a comedian whose address is somewhere on Planet Farce.

It’s not that you don’t want to see her fall in love. It’s that you don’t want to see her fall in love in what’s basically a Katherine Heigl movie by another name. (That’s how barren the romantic-comic universe is: “a Katherine Heigl movie’’ actually means something.)

In any case, Faris applies her not-that-dumb-blonde stylings to the story of Ally, a freshly fired Boston woman who learns from Harvard or Marie Claire that if she exceeds her 20-sex-partner ceiling, something awful might befall her pelvic floor. Or something like that. She vows to dig around among her exes and one-night-stands for a suitable life mate. Her having been recently fired only gives her extra time to, say, travel to Washington where one old boyfriend (Anthony Mackie) asks for her hand in marriage so that they can conquer the Beltway with him as closeted homosexual and her as his beard. That, of course, is the movie we should be paying to see - a sexy black gay guy and a pratfall-prone platinum blonde climbing the political ladder.

But the movie isn’t that ambitious. It looked for a moment as if Ally would join Nicki Minaj and Jenna Maroney of “30 Rock’’ as one of the few women in popular culture right now who aren’t afraid of or embarrassed by their sexuality. But Ally opts for recycling old sex into new love, which in the movies is a sort of moral alchemy that in life never works.

Ally’s sister (Ari Graynor) is getting married, and with her wedding comes the expected parade of tired gags - the uptight mother and whip-cracking sister. But it’s not all bad, just formulaic from start to finish. Director Mark Mylod and the screenwriters, Gabrielle Allen and Jennifer Crittenden - adapting a novel by Karyn Bosnak called “20 Times a Lady’’ - do turn Boston into the glamorous city that we take for granted, and they smooth out the bawdiness and broadness so that there’s a degree of recognizable humanness among the women. This is one of the few such movies where that’s the case, but that might have something to do with there being no part for Kate Hudson.

The movie squanders an opportunity for satire in D.C., but it does give Chris Evans, as the inevitable Mr. Right, a chance to remind us that he’s truly not an action figure. He’s a natural clown - and the only actor in Hollywood with a five o’clock shadow on his chest. In his naturalness, he’s hot. He plays the Dude Across the Hall, and the reason he and Faris work so well together is that he finds his hotness funny in the same way that Faris does hers. These two need another, braver movie together, preferably one in which sex means never having to say you’re sorry.

Wesley Morris can be reached at wmorris@globe.com.

WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER? Directed by: Mark Mylod

Written by: Gabrielle Allen and Jennifer Crittenden, adapted from Karyn Bosnak’s novel “20 Times a Lady’’

Starring: Anna Faris, Chris Evans, Ari Graynor, Blythe Danner, and Anthony Mackie

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 106 minutes

Rated: R (sexual content and language, which includes profane children)

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