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Originally published Thursday, September 29, 2011 at 3:04 PM

Movie review

'What's Your Number?': Faris deserves better

A movie review of "What's Your Number?," a comedy starring former local Anna Faris. She plays a woman who's shocked to learn, from a magazine article, that she's had twice as many lovers as the national average — and still hasn't met the right man.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2 stars

'What's Your Number?,' with Anna Faris, Chris Evans, Ari Graynor, Blythe Danner. Directed by Mark Mylod, from a screenplay by Gabrielle Allan and Jennifer Crittenden, based on the novel "20 Times a Lady" by Karyn Bosnak. 106 minutes. Rated R for sexual content and language. Several theaters.

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In this post-"Bridesmaids" autumn, the comedy "What's Your Number?" looks awfully familiar: Its heroine is a 30-something woman who's lost her job and whose life is messed up, and who yearns for love but settles for casual sex; it's scripted by women but directed by a man; it has a wedding at its center; and its female characters speak with the kind of frankness that's still considered mildly shocking — for female characters, at any rate.

"I'm a jobless whore who's slept with 20 guys!" the main character of "What's Your Number?" tells her mother in a late scene, daring her to disapprove. Picture a male character saying this; you can't, because nobody would care.

But the key difference between the two movies, unfortunately, is this: "Bridesmaids" is much funnier. "What's Your Number?" suffers from an elaborate plot that traps the actors in scenarios that feel like a screenwriter's (or, in this case, a novelist's) invention.

Ally (former local Anna Faris) is shocked to learn, from a magazine article, that she's had twice as many lovers as the national average — and still hasn't met the right man. Determined to keep her "number" at 20, she embarks on a complicated plan to track down and revisit all of her former bedmates, in the hopes that one just might be Mr. Right. She's assisted in this scheme by her across-the-hall neighbor Colin (Chris Evans), who has a habit of collecting his morning newspaper while fetchingly clad in a casually held dish towel — and if you don't think that Ally and Colin are made for each other, you haven't seen enough romantic comedies.

The talented Faris attacks this uneven material with verve, and she's got some wonderfully offbeat moments. ("I'm always growing out my bangs. Don't get bangs," she murmurs, as if making a mental note to herself, while giving a toast at her sister's engagement party.) But the character is an odd mixture between dumb blonde (which Faris has played before, with a similarly slurry delivery) and smart heroine, just as the movie dances precariously between raunchy comedy and rom-com cuteness.

Faris deserves a better screenplay; maybe, if this only occasionally satisfying movie can manage to ride the "Bridesmaids" wave, she'll someday get one.

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

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