“Definitely, Maybe” comes at us in a friendly sort of way. It greets us with humor and flowery scents of romance. In the initial scenes, it will, I imagine, strike most of you as delightfully novel, if not adorably sweet.
We have Will, a single dad played by Ryan Reynolds telling his little girl Maya (Abigail Breslin) a bedtime story about how he met and courted three women, one of whom turned out to be Maya’s mother.
Until the very end, we are all left to guess which woman Will Hayes married and divorced: Emily, his college sweetheart, played by Elizabeth Banks; April, the Nirvana-loving free spirit, played by Isla Fisher; or Summer, the political reporter, who during one romantic interlude, sings the seldom-heard intro to “I’ve Got a Crush On You.” She is portrayed by Rachel Weisz.
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY Adam Brooks
STARRING Ryan Reynolds, Isla Fisher, Rachel Weisz, Elizabeth Banks, Abigail Breslin, Kevin Kline and Derek Luke
RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes
From the producers of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Notting Hill,” “Definitely, Maybe” turns out to be a cute idea in search of a movie. As much as it captures our fancy and captures the allure of a wondrous city, this Manhattan romance is a harmless and rather tame Woody Allen Lite.
Adam Brooks’ movie never does seem to come together, and as the narrative shifts from one love interest to another, our interest begins to wane. We gradually disengage. When the answers come, or rather, when the payoff is imminent, it’s a chore to get worked up. When we learn just who Maya’s mommy is, the moment hardly arrives as a romantic climax or breathtaking revelation. It is, I must report, a ho-hum experience. In what amounts to an epilogue, an additional climax of sorts seems contrived.
Given its producers’ pedigree and presence of fine performers, “Definitely, Maybe” is less a failure than a disappointment. There are, to be sure, some touching moments, especially a few scenes with Reynolds and Breslin, who made her mark in “Little Miss Sunshine.” She is an actress who seems every bit as precocious as her character, a little girl whose curiosity is aroused after her first class in sex education, a little interlude that struck me as a bit too forced for comfort.
It’s not a reviewer’s job to rewrite a movie, but it seems to me that as Brooks missed numerous chances to connect scenes and characters with wit and panache. The affairs all seem disconnected, and, after a while, the allusions to the 1992 Clinton campaign wear thin. It is in the New York campaign headquarters that Will and April meet. Sprinkling news reports of Clinton’s affairs with Jennifer Flowers and later with Monica Lewinsky seem both pointless and superfluous.
As a result of the movie’s jagged, careless, overly cute approach, a number of performances are wasted. Fisher steals the show, but as she flits in and out of the picture, we fail to connect with her as we did, say, with Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally.” The allusions to a nubile relationship between Summer and Emily comes off as a novelty item, while in the role of Summer’s lover, Kevin Kline seems to be laboring in a vacuum.
“Definitely, Maybe” wants to be witty, charming, novel, romantic and hip. It wants to be a lot of things all at once, and you can see that as an idea, it has considerable promise as a terrific feature film. Unfortunately, this Valentine-date treat remains more a promise than a realization.