Greetings again from the darkness. If you have been looking for proof that there is a difference between “crazy in love” and “crazy and in love”, this first feature film from director Luke Matheny (God of Love, Live action short film Oscar winner in 2011) should end your search. It’s also a return to the big screen for Matt LeBlanc, who, despite an extremely successful TV career (“Friends”, “Episodes”), has never quite clicked with movie goers.
Mr. LeBlanc stars as Charlie Darby, an energetic elementary school principal beloved by his students and liked by everyone … except those with whom he falls in love. In what comes across as a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde syndrome, Charlie’s charms and romantic notions make it easy for him to connect. But once he falls, a psychotic reaction occurs within his brain and he becomes sociopathically jealous and paranoid and worried sick about things that might happen and things he has imagined to have happened. Charlie’s love reactions are played for laughs, but there is also a sense of sadness and danger that is left unexplored.
Writer Dean Young (“King of the Hill”) goes for the conventional approach despite Charlie’s unconventional affliction. The laughs are small rather than guffaws, and LeBlanc’s genuine likability makes us pull for him to break free from this socially crippling behavior. Adam Rodriguez (“CSI: Miami”) plays Jason, Charlie’s very supportive best friend, and the narrator of the story. His character provides what little insight we get into what happens to Charlie. Ali Larter plays Molly, the most recent object of desire for Charlie. Larter and LeBlanc are very good together, but that doesn’t ease the awkwardness of Charlie’s reactionary ways.
Other supporting work is provided by Chevy Chase, as Charlie’s lonely porn-addicted neighbor (a glimpse at Charlie’s future?); Kristen Johnston as an ex-girlfriend and counselor trying to help; the always funny Rachael Harris as a vile and disgusting Charlie date; and the wonderful Connie Sawyer as Nana Bebe. If you are unfamiliar with Ms. Sawyer, she recently turned 102 years old and has appeared as Mrs. Sullivan in a couple of “Ray Donovan” episodes, plus most every seminal TV series since the 1960’s (except, ironically, “Friends”).
Most will find the movie likeable … just like its star. It’s best if you not expect a story with an edge or any real insight into human nature or relationships. The screwball musical score is enough to remind us that the film is not taking a serious approach to Charlie’s psychotic affliction, yet it does remind us that we all go a bit crazy when we fall in love – let’s just hope that it’s not a Charlie-type crazy.