Instead of rattling off praise for Crazy, Stupid, Love, there’s something more important at hand. Hollywood has systematically destroyed whatever credibility the romantic comedy had left in recent years, pushing something like Crazy, Stupid, Love into the spotlight. Don’t take that the wrong way; this co-directed film from Glenn Ficarra and John Requa could stand up even in a period of genre bliss, but let these be a lesson on what this film does right that all of the other do so terribly wrong.
1. Don’t waste the side characters: Crazy, Stupid, Love almost makes this grievous error as Emma Stone takes generalized dating advice from a best friend, but then it turns it around. The film almost toys with the concept of guys slumming around chatting about relationships, turning Ryan Gosling into a best friend playboy against Steve Carell’s dedicated family man. In the end, it all comes together in an unexpected way, even Kevin Bacon who seems sidelined. Everyone is important. Believing that bit parts exist merely to spout off a properly timed piece of advice before tossing them to the curb makes them wasted opportunities.
2. It’s okay to be dramatic: Oh sure, romantic comedies lambast audiences with a last second, forced argument between the lead couple. That, in turn, forces the guy into realizing he’s wrong and thus must run through town nearly killing civilians in the path of his car to meet the girl and express his love. That’s it, the rest of the film shoehorned into a comedic rut so none of it can be taken serious. Crazy, Stupid, Love consistently adds complications, plays with emotions, and still rebounds into chaos to put a smile on the audience’s face. That’s how it should be done.
3. Surprises count for a lot: Actually, they’re everything. While Crazy, Stupid, Love may end up all wrapped up with a bow on top, it loves to play with the idea that some things are impossible. Relationships break down unexpectedly, phone calls turn awkward, and a little sexual deviance can upend the entire spectrum of romance. When you can precisely place the moments of upheaval based on the “paint by numbers” scripting, you’re boring.
4. Pick your realism: Look romantic comedy, your purpose in life is to send glowing couples into the theater to have a good time and experience something memorable together. Matthew McConaughey being battered by ghosts? No. Too extreme? Okay, Jay Baruchel flipping out because his super hot girlfriend has a toe problem. That’s stupid. Crazy, Stupid, Love is so carefully plotted and scripted, there’s not a line here that feels forced, a twist that is unexplainable, or an event that’s contrived… mostly. Fantasy is fine, but at least let the audience know you’re heading that way before doing something stupid.
5. Choose your music wisely: Just because Lady Gaga’s latest might be a great corporate tie-in and the audience will recognize it doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for the film. Not only does Crazy, Stupid, Love nail the exact song it needs, it squeezes it into the story to thrust a newly discovered character romance onto the screen. Believe it or not, “Poker Face” doesn’t have quite the same impact as “Time of My Life.” Timing is everything, certainly with the comedy, and even more so with the song selection.
In other words, thank you Crazy, Stupid, Love for shattering pre-conceived notions of highly budgeted romanticized farces, being natural, taking the time to do it right, creating characters that are meaningful, and not featuring a single Lady Gaga song.
If things are being laid out in the open, let’s be honest with each other. Reviewing new releases is boring. They’re all the same. Sure, they all have little quirks, a flub here, an instance of aliasing there, but with film stocks being what they are and digital clarity gaining by the day, it feels pointless to drone on.
Then, along comes Warner who completely and utterly blows this miserable encode, nearly ruining the movie experience in the process. In a way, Warner deserves some congratulation for breaking the review cycle, standing out even if it’s in the wrong way, and making the viewing something worth talking about. There are so many places to start, it becomes like a box of Jelly Belly’s: Which flavor do you want first? How about compression?
Grain here looks like something out of the ’80s, this after Universal’s shoddy catalog Blu-ray department got a hold of it. Every scene is completely awash with signs of pitiful, strangled encoding, coarse, elevated, and nothing but sheets of noise. Codec doesn’t even matter (it’s AVC for the interested), as this comedy is butchered by inadequacies that are too numerous to consider, but let’s keep going anyway.
High contrast edges are rife with mega-halos, shining brightly as if they’re a child jumping up and down screaming for attention. Why are the edges so noticeable? Because the black levels are a nightmare of crush. At one point, Steve Carell’s car is lost to the darkness. The entire back-end of the car, gone! Criss Angel wishes he could get in on some of Warner’s action. Whites are blown out, admittedly by the photography and intent, but let’s not let anything ruin this.
Detail? It’s there, if not often. Close-ups will produce a smattering of finely tuned stuff, basically whatever the encode didn’t scarf down. Most of the time, all of the fancy clothing that is so integral to the character development is lost behind a moving sea of dots generated by digitizing this one. Medium and distance shots might as well call it a day. They don’t stand a chance, and neither does the videophile seeking a quiet evening with his Blu-ray.
While not perfection, Crazy, Stupid, Love’s DTS-HD mastering is a step up, not that it could be much worse. Complaints relate to the dialogue, at times lacking precision and coming through the center hot. All of the background noise seems to be a little much, forcing the conversations up to remain audible, and the fidelity to drop.
It’s not offensive, an issue left to the finicky to source and complain about, but it’s there. Sound design is pretty complete otherwise, the multitude of bars playing a role in establishing a heavy ambiance. Music is crucial in keeping atmosphere moving and lively, the surrounds happy to capture this effect. The sub will handle any bass assault gracefully.
This is a complete design though, the usual stuff like insects during a nighttime conversation or mild echo during a school gym speech accounted for. Nothing feels missed or empty, something that a lot of comedies tend to do expecting that no one will notice. Well, some do, and when done right, credit is given.
Warner doesn’t give much in the bonuses, a stack of deleted scenes running 12-minutes probably the sole highlight. Steve and Ryan Walk Into a Bar has the two leads chatting about the movie for about seven minutes in, well, a bar. The Player Meets His Match is Gosling and Emma Stone discussing the film for a minute less, without much meat on the insightful bones.