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Originally published Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 3:01 PM

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Movie review

'No Strings Attached': A ho-hum movie about casual sex

Movie review: "No Strings Attached" is a romantic comedy starring Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman that makes no demands on the audience.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2.5 stars

'No Strings Attached,' with Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline, Lake Bell, Cary Elwes, Greta Gerwig, Olivia Thirlby. Directed by Ivan Reitman, from a screenplay by Elizabeth Meriweather. 108 minutes. Rated R for sexual content, language and some drug material. Several theaters.

Yet another Hollywood romantic comedy best described as Not Quite As Bad As You'd Think It Might Be, Ivan Reitman's "No Strings Attached" is basically "When Harry Met Sally ... " plus sex. (A lot of sex, though it's very Hollywood-style, with everyone pretty much clothed throughout.)

Emma (Natalie Portman), an extremely glamorous doctor in the throes of the world's cushiest medical residency, and Adam (Ashton Kutcher), a would-be scriptwriter, are good friends and frequent lovers, but aren't in love. She's made it clear that she's not interested in a relationship, and he's fine with that — until he falls in love with her.

Why he does this isn't quite clear: Emma's written as a rather odd duck (their first date is to her father's funeral — except that she didn't tell him that it was her father's funeral), and Portman, a great screen beauty but not the most relaxed of actresses, can't do much to make her likable. Kutcher and his bangs work mightily to keep the movie light and funny, and he's often charming, so much so that you get a little irritated with Emma for not recognizing how hard Adam's trying.

Lake Bell, as a co-worker who's long carried a torch for Adam, steals a few scenes with sweetly dithery neuroses (you've never seen a woman so happy to be shown a chair), and you start picturing the movie that these two might have made, and feeling faintly disappointed that things turn out in standard fashion.

But much of Elizabeth Meriweather's dialogue is snappy, and "No Strings Attached" — though overlong — is mostly painless. (As is Emma's residency, which seems scheduled to give priority to grooming and for bouncy sex in various corners of the hospital. Does nobody ever need to use an exam room there for, I don't know, an exam?) For a rom-com in January, you could do worse.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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