[Screen It]


(2022) (Reese Witherspoon, Ashton Kutcher) (PG-13)

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Romantic Comedy: A man and woman who've been best friends following a one-night stand twenty years ago trade places for the week across the country so she can attend classes while he babysits her 13-year-old son.

Debbie Dunn (REESE WITHERSPOON) and Peter Coleman (ASHTON KUTCHER) have been close friends for the past twenty years, ever since they decided against following up on a one-night stand. He's since moved to New York where he's a successful consultant, while she's a divorced single mom to 13-year-old Jack (WESLEY KIMMEL) and works as a teacher at his school alongside her good friend Alicia (TIG NOTARO).

But she has higher academic aspirations and is planning on attending a once-a-year weeklong class in New York where she'll get to visit Peter. But when her babysitter bails on her, Peter decides to fly to L.A. to watch Jack while Debbie attends her classes.

As Peter tries to bond with and help the socially awkward teen and wonders about Debbie's neighbor, Zen (STEVE ZAHN), who's always gardening in her yard, she becomes besties with one of Peter's previous girlfriends, Minka (ZOE CHAO), who encourages her to pursue a handsome publishing house owner, Theo Martin (JESSE WILLIAMS). But as that plays out, Debbie and Peter come to realize they have unresolved feelings toward each other.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10

Aside from chemists and anyone else who works in related fields, most people either don't understand or like chemistry, which I blame squarely on schools for not making it more engaging or fun.

That said, chemistry is obviously important in the way everything works, ranging from everyday nature to all things related to being human, both physically and psychologically. And when it's not operating properly, it's easy to tell, including when that involves romantic attraction, be that real or fabricated.

You know, like in the movies, such as dramatic or comedic romances or even antagonistic pairings in action films. And that sometimes flows out into related promotional events, such as red-carpet appearances. Such was the case recently for the premiere of Netflix's "Your Place or Mine," a rom-com featuring two stars who've had past success in that genre, Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher.

Appearing together for the event, their apparent lack of chemistry was so striking that Kutcher's wife, Mila Kunis, emailed Witherspoon (her friend) and stated, "You guys look so awkward on the red carpet together" and photos and video from the event proved her point.

There's been no explanation why -- it could be any number of things -- but the danger of that making it into entertainment news is that viewers -- if they hear about that before seeing the movie -- will be looking for any signs of such bad chemistry on the screen.

Interestingly enough, my wife and I saw the movie before that news came out and commented that the chemistry between the two wasn't the greatest, but nonetheless we still enjoyed the film enough to state it's a decent entry in the genre. Nothing special, but entertaining for what it is and is trying to do.

Of course, I guess it doesn't help (or hurt depending on your view) that the leads actually don't spend much time together on the screen, thanks to the premise of the story penned by writer/director Aline Brosh McKenna (making her big-screen filmmaking debut after penning the likes of "The Devil Wears Prada" and "27 Dresses").

After the introductory scene of a one-night stand between Witherspoon's Debbie and Kutcher's Peter, we flash forward twenty years where we learn no further romance continued between the two, although they remained close friends, albeit cross-country ones. She's a divorced teacher living in L.A. with her 13-year-old son, Jack (Wesley Kimmel), while he's a high-paid consultant living in Manhattan with a string of ex-girlfriends where those relationships never lasted beyond a few months.

With her needing to attend a week-long class in NYC and her babysitter bailing on her, Peter offers to fly to LA to watch Jack, and thus they switch locales but maintain their usual phone contact. That allows Peter to try his father skills with the friendless boy, spend time with their mutual friend and Debbie's coworker (Tig Notaro), and wonder what the story is with Debbie's all Zen-like neighbor -- conveniently named Zen (the typical zany but otherwise criminally underused Steve Zahn) -- who does her gardening.

Meanwhile, Debbie furthers her education, befriends an ex of his (Zao Chao), and ends up meeting a dashingly handsome publishing house owner (Jesse Williams) who sees a kindred spirit in her and their mutual love of all things literary related.

The overall gist -- to no one's surprise who's ever seen a romantic comedy -- is that the two leads have unresolved romantic issues between them, thus presumably making us wonder what will ultimately happen between them. I'm guessing you already know the answer.

Like most entries in this genre, the outcome is predetermined, and while most everything that occurs falls into the usual elements and requirements, the end result is just entertaining enough that you probably won't mind. Which also applies to the above-mentioned chemistry which isn't all that or then some. "Your Place or Mine" rates a 5.5 out of 10.

Posted February 10, 2023

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