By Gino Barrica
Friends With Benefits had every reason to fail. Was this not the movie whose premise had already been utilized to mediocre results earlier this year? Was this not relying on a teen pop star and a teen sitcom star to carry the movie? Was this not going head-to-head against the latest Marvel Comics cinematic juggernaut?
Yes, yes and yes. Friends With Benefits, before even premiering, was already the butt of many a pop culture joke. The Kutcher-Portman snoozer No Strings Attached had, indeed, already explored the comedic possibilities of having a proposed sex-only relationship with a friend. Yes, JT is better known for his musical prowess than his acting chops. Yes, Mila Kunis is probably better known as a voice on Family Guy. And, yes, most red-blooded males will probably be at the theater next door watching a certain red, white and blue shield instead of this movie.
But, you know what? They might actually be missing out.
See, the success of this movie rests entirely on the charisma of its leads. And, on less able shoulders, this movie would probably fail. But, thankfully, Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis have charisma to spare. I was completely ready to roll my eyes and scoff at the rom-com tropes this movie would surely offer, but, instead, I found myself sincerely laughing repeatedly. While I’m still not sure if Justin Timberlake can play anyone other than himself, he’s very good at doing just that. This movie excels when it knowingly winks at all the conventional romantic comedy devices and lets its stars flirtingly play versions of their real-life selves. It surprises when supporting actors like Woody Harrelson, Patricia Clarkson, Richard Jenkins, and Jenna Elfman are allowed to steal scenes. And, it falters when it falls victim to the genre clichés it mocks.
But, the bottom line is I would whole-heartedly recommend this movie to anyone needing a little respite from the special effects-laden blockbusters of the summer. As much as I hesitate to admit it, I quite enjoyed this little tryst. While I’m not ready to totally commit to what it had to offer, I’m okay with enjoying the laughs, no strings attached.