‘Crazy Stupid Love’ restructures the summer blockbuster with its charm

Warner Brothers/Courtesy

In a summer filled with superheroes, magic wands and fighting robots, “Crazy, Stupid, Love” stands out as a film with real characters going through familiar on-screen situations, all handled with a certain amount of charm. Add an ensemble cast, filled with Hollywood’s A-list actors and a surprisingly mature script from Pixar-alum Dan Fogelman (“Cars,” “Cars 2”), and one can expect an entertaining, if at times uneven, escape from the brash CGI driven films of the summer blockbuster season.

“Crazy, Stupid, Love” centers on the relationship between Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) and his wife, Emily (Julianne Moore). After 25 years of marriage, Emily — who also admits to cheating on Cal as she goes through a midlife crisis — abruptly asks for a divorce, leaving Cal to figure out the wild world of dating as he attempts to move on with his life. But having been with the same woman since high school, Cal simply doesn’t know how to engage with the opposite sex.

Enter Jacob (Ryan Gosling), a young hotshot (note: euphemism for douche) with a penchant for onenight stands and a foolproof method for getting any woman into bed. As he berates Cal for his lack of style and boring routine made up of work and kids, one can easily predict all that’s to come. Jacob may seem like the guy who has it all, but of course, he wishes he could be more like the nice and normal Cal. Like all the other hokey elements of every Hollywood rom-com, Jacob will only learn the error of his ways by meeting the right woman ­— that is, the only woman that rejects him. And the only woman crazy enough to do a thing like that is Hannah (Emma Stone), a young straight-laced attorney, who really doesn’t fit into the movie until two-thirds of the way in.

All the while, the audience is forced to endure an unnecessary subplot concerning the Weavers’s 13-year-old son and his infatuation for an older babysitter. But it’s only through the innocence of his son’s undying love that Cal learns he has to win back the heart of his wife.

The premise may not appear to be anything out of the ordinary. In fact, it sounds pretty cliched, but the execution of the material keeps it all fresh thanks to a strong central narrative concerning Cal and Emily.

A lot of the credit belongs to the dynamic chemistry between Julianne Moore and Steve Carell as well as the work of the entire ensemble. As always, Moore displays a transcendent ability to make even the most boring of characters come alive with a hysteric display of tears and fatigue. Fortunately Carell brings the drama down a few notches by keeping the material grounded in comedy. Carell continues with his likeable on-screen persona as the “nice guy” first seen in other rom-coms (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Dan in Real Life” and “Date Night”), as Ryan Gosling breaks away from his usual dramatic roles to reveal a more playful and versatile side of himself.

Although there is little doubt as to how the film is going to end, surprise twists and major character developments keep the audience second-guessing early predictions. In some ways, “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” seems more like a traditional romance or dramatic movie without the comedy element, and it really pulls it off for the most part. By avoiding cheap laughs while finding a balance between drama and comedy, “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” accomplishes the difficult task of avoiding any of the usual melodrama.