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Well, they got Crazy and Stupid right. My only suggestion to make the title more accurate is to change Love to Hate.

A romantic comedy with too many characters, too many insipid and meandering plotlines and too many commas in its title, Crazy, Stupid, Love comes up short in laughs. The movie plays like a lowlight reel of an entire season of a dopey sitcom that got cancelled halfway through the year. I counted six love stories, most unrequited – not including the one between me and the theater’s exit sign – but the movie would have been far better off had it simply focused on Ryan Gosling’s infatuation with himself.

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As a Barney Stinson-by-way-of-the-Bronx ladies’ man who takes an unhappily separated Steve Carell under his vulture wing, Gosling could have been the heart of the film. The lines Gosling uses to seduce women are so awful that they’re halfway believable in that maybe they could be seductive in an ironic, see-how-I’m-not-trying-while-pretending-to-try-too-hard way. But Gosling is just a tiny cog in a larger, malfunctioning machine and disappears for scenes on end as the filmmakers shove in all manner of less interesting plot threads.

Worse, when Gosling does come back, the storytellers betray the fabric of his character, informing us that love at first sight transforms Tucker Maxes into Steve Urkels.

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Carell melds his hapless single guy nature from The 40-Year-Old Virgin with his harried family man act in Dan in Real Life. He succeeds at the former but falters at the latter, too-quickly becoming a suave Lothario under Gosling’s tutelage, only to abruptly decide that he wants to save his shattered marriage and make a dopey, climactic speech that bottoms off perhaps the worst scene I’ve seen all year.

Emma Stone and Julianne Moore, who normally bubble with personality, play the dullest characters they’ve yet encountered, indecisive, weak ciphers who are defined solely by the men they’re with. Analeigh Tipton, meanwhile, checks in on the other end of the dramatic scale as a 17-year-old babysitter involved in a pair of “eeeew”-inducing would-be romances, in puppy love with Carell while fending off desperate advances from his 13-year-old son, played by Jonah Bobo.

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The movie starts off with some promise, which it balls up, spits on and drop kicks until you’re reduced to a puddle in your seat, begging for some sort of conclusion, sobbing when the plot takes yet another unnecessary turn to stretch things out. What I wouldn’t have given to exchange one of the title’s extra commas for an edit that made the sprawling crapfest 15 minutes shorter. But alas, no deal was to be had. The film, like the commas, just wouldn’t end.

Wow, did, I, dislike, this, movie.

Starring Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Jonah Bobo, Kevin Bacon and Analeigh Tipton. Written by Dan Fogelman. Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. 118 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Phil’s novel, Stormin’ Mormon, is available as a Kindle book for $1.
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