Review in a Hurry: Although No Strings Attached won't sabotage Natalie Portman's Oscar chances for her performance in Black Swan, it certainly won't help. Filled with gags that aren't funny and with no spark between her costar Ashton Kutcher, this friends-with-benefits comedy will be out of theaters and forgotten long before Portman accepts her golden dude.
The Bigger Picture: After an extended opening takes us from the '90s to 2005 and finally to the present, optimistic Adam (Kutcher) reconnects in sunny L.A. with the girl of his dreams Emma (Portman). OK, she's less the "girl of his dreams" and more the "girl he's wanted to do the nasty with since he was 6." Now she's a medical student, and he's a would-be television writer for a High School Musical-type show.
Emma is just too busy and neurotic to be in a real relationship. She suggests that since she's got a body like Natalie Portman and since he has one like Ashton Kutcher, why don't they just be sex friends and get busy 24-7?
At first, Adam enjoys this arrangement (because he's not blind), but eventually, he falls for her and a crisis ensues with awkward, late-night texts and bad advice from his male buds who sound like characters from a second-class Judd Apatow flick.
But what exactly is Adam falling for? Emma's hot, sure, but he's getting that with um, no strings attached. While Adam proclaims his love for Emma, we can't come up with a memorable thing about her.
Surprisingly, these beyond-gorgeous celebs don't register any heat. At all. If they had some chemistry, then the switching of gender roles might've worked. (Emma doesn't want a relationship; Adam does.)
Still, No Strings would have been a complete disaster if not for Portman (who also serves as executive producer). She's much more compelling when she's freaking out (Black Swan), so seeing her get all jealous and "crazy" when Adam sends her a pic of two hot girls is entertaining.
As for Kutcher...well, hey, we like him, but his charm is better suited to 30-second camera commercials.
Featuring a supporting cast that includes Greta Gerwig, Mindy Kaling and Kevin Kline, these reliably funny comedians don't get a chance to do much. The closest would be Kline playing Kutcher's pot-smoking dad, but the old Boomer schtick is tired.
Director Ivan Reitman makes the whole film feel stale. In the '80s, he was unstoppable with Stripes and Ghostbusters, but here he can't find the right tone. Shots of the couple getting it on (in their underwear) are PG bland, and many of the punch lines just drift across the screen without generating laughs. Worse, a few (like every scene with Emma's gay roommate) are horribly dated.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Even awful films like this have their place. If you're stuck on a plane, skip the headphone fee and take in the great eye candy of Portman's bod and Kutcher's chiseled abs.