Would somebody please tell these young filmmakers that "old-fashioned" romantic comedies probably shouldn't include the use of just about every profanity you can think of?
Among this current crop of potty-mouthed hotshots are Kevin Smith ("Clerks," "Chasing Amy") and Doug Liman ("Swingers"). And you can now add Doug Ellin, director/co-writer of "Kissing a Fool," to the list.
Yet, despite the crass dialogue, an almost eerie air of predictability and an unconvincing performance by one of its stars, David Schwimmer ("The Pallbearer"), there's a certain prickly charm to the film. Maybe it's because the other two leads — Jason Lee and Mili Avital — are so appealing when they're onscreen together.
Schwimmer and Lee play, respectively, Max Abbitt and Jay Murphy, longtime best friends with different approaches to romance. While Max, a crass TV sportscaster, is a love-'em-and-leave-'em type of guy, Jay is a sensitive novelist who's still in mourning over his breakup with his fashion-model ex (Vanessa Angel, from "Kingpin").
Enter Samantha Andrews (Avital), Jay's pretty editor, who immediately hits it off with him. But rather than see this as an opportunity, Jay sets Sam up with Max. And to just about everyone's surprise, they hit it off and are soon engaged to be married.
But as the big day approaches, Max starts getting cold feet — and some rather odd notions. Perhaps looking for an excuse to get out of the engagement — and give in to his eager co-worker, Dara (Kari Wuhrer) — Max asks Jay to hit on Sam as a "test" of her fidelity. Jay resists at first but eventually goes along with the scheme.
Even the most clueless film patron can see where this is going, but Ellin gets some mileage out of the strictly formulaic premise, due to some occasionally sharp writing.
But it is awfully disconcerting to see Schwimmer, who plays the "sensitive" member of TV's "Friends" cast, swearing like a longshoreman and acting like a misogynistic version of Oscar Madison.
Fortunately, he's balanced out by Lee and Avital, who have quite a bit of chemistry. Lee, a former professional skateboarder who's known more for delivering quips in his film appearances in "Mallrats" and "Chasing Amy," displays leading-man charm here, while Avital ("Stargate") is at least as good.
Also helping is comic actress Bonnie Hunt ("Jumanji"), who acts as the film's sarcastic narrator.
"Kissing a Fool" is rated R for almost nonstop use of profane language, some vulgar references and gags, violence, sex (mostly overheard) and partial nudity.