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Review: Adults will adore 'Crazy, Stupid, Love.'

By Mark Rabinowitz, CNN
Ryan Gosling, left, and Steve Carell are made for their roles in "Crazy, Stupid, Love."
Ryan Gosling, left, and Steve Carell are made for their roles in "Crazy, Stupid, Love."
  • The cast is successful, especially the younger members of the ensemble
  • There are enough twists to make the plot near impossible to discuss without spoilers
  • "Crazy, Stupid, Love." has the potential to be an anomalous breakout hit

(CNN) -- Praise be to the movie gods!

Run to the store and buy yourself a lottery ticket, because what many thought was impossible has happened: A Hollywood studio has made a smart, accessible, funny, touching and human film ... for adults! "Crazy, Stupid, Love." is engaging, fun, moving and look, Ma: No explosions!

Although this film might not be breaking any thematic ground, it feels new. It's been a long time since there was this much to like about an ensemble romantic dramedy: eight years since Richard Curtis' "Love, Actually" and a whopping 22 since Ron Howard's "Parenthood," two films that most echo the tone of "Crazy, Stupid, Love."

Steve Carell is Cal Weaver, who is, in all respects, a milquetoast. When Emily, his wife of over 20 years (Julianne Moore), drops the divorce bomb between dinner and dessert, Cal shuts down and accepts it rather than argue his point, suggest counseling or even cry.

Cal ends up spending his nights drowning his sorrows in a swanky cocktail lounge-pickup joint, drinking copious vodka cranberries and recounting, loudly, his wife's indiscretions with co-worker David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon).

After hearing this story one too many times, pickup artist Jacob (Ryan Gosling) moves to take Cal under his wing, as much to avoid hearing the story any more as to improve the older man's lot in life by imparting his not-inconsiderable knowledge of wooing women.

Carell and Gosling are made for these roles (really, when is Gosling not made for a role?) and quickly fall into a student-teacher relationship much like the Mr. Miyagi-Daniel-san pairing, a fact remarked upon by Gosling in one of the film's canny pop-culture references.

Cal trails Jacob on his nightly search for companionship like an apprentice waiter at a four-star restaurant while Jacob spins line after line, always managing to leave with the woman (and more often than not, leaving Cal with a massive bar bill).

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Of course, Jacob's life isn't all sunshine and lollipops, and we get the idea that his shallow womanizing is a cover for some deep emotional pain. Isn't it always? When he meets recent law-school graduate Hannah and fails to get her to go home with him, we just know these two will meet again.

As Hannah, Emma Stone is all nerves and confusion. She's studying for the bar and in a relationship with Richard (singer Josh Groban, in his feature debut), a partner at the firm where she works.

Hannah is at a crossroads but appears to be going straight ahead, much to the chagrin of her best friend, Liz (a pitch-perfect Liza Lapira), who is constantly urging her to take chances and go left or right.

After a particularly disastrous party to celebrate her passing the bar, Hannah may just be ready to take that turn.

Once Cal gets the hang of Jacob's technique and starts to exhibit his own mojo with the ladies, he goes on a spree of his own, bedding a bevy of beauties (nine, we later find out) including Marisa Tomei in an underused but funny role that ... no spoilers!

In fact, for a film of this type, there are enough twists and reveals to make some plot elements near-impossible to discuss, but the great thing is, they work. Nothing about this film feels contrived or forced (within Hollywood conventions, of course -- we wouldn't want anyone mistaking this for real life).

The thing is, Cal simply isn't made to be a player, and one of the most touching scenes shows him sneaking over the fence into his old backyard to secretly take care of the yard work, because that's who he is. He's the husband and father who straps spikes onto his shoes to aerate the grass and rake the yard, even though it's no longer his house.

Emily hasn't exactly moved on, either. When the two meet at their son's parent-teacher night, their lives together are written on their faces, and it breaks your heart.

The cast is across-the-board successful, and particular attention should be paid to a pair of the younger members of the ensemble: Jonah Bobo as Cal and Emily's preternaturally adult 13-year-old, Robbie, who is in love with the family babysitter, 17-year-old Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), and Tipton herself, who is in love with Cal. Anyone who has been in either of these younger points on this classic unrequited (one hopes) love triangle will feel for these kids.

Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa ("I Love You Phillip Morris"), working from a script by Dan Fogelman ("Cars"), have put together a smooth and balanced film with a classic feel, mixing drama, comedy and romance with a deft touch.

As it was recently only the domain of the indies, many film fans had begun to write the obituary for the previously populous "Hollywood film made for adults" genre. If early word (and my opinion) is to be believed, Warner Bros. might find itself the beneficiary of some genius counter-programming.

Opening against "Cowboys & Aliens" and "The Smurfs" (Really? "The Smurfs"?) "Crazy, Stupid, Love." has the potential to be an anomalous breakout hit: no SFX, no green screen, no spaceships or robots, and no raunchy sex or language. In fact, it's rated PG-13.

"Crazy, Stupid, Love." is a family comedy drama with the occasional "bad" word and sexual suggestion. While there's nothing in it that is likely to scar a young teenager, they might be bored without the flashing lights and things that go "boom" they are used to.