Los Angeles Times

'Dating Games People Play'

Did you know that sometimes men and women see things differently when it comes to relationships? Such is the essential premise to "Dating Games People Play," an entirely unnecessary romantic comedy written and directed by Stefan Marc. The filmmaker also appears as a part of two central couples that wend their way through a generic and uninvolving portrayal of life in Newport Beach.

In the film's brightest moments, Marc twice uses the song "Cruel to Be Kind" by Nick Lowe, a mighty tune that flatly trumps the filmmaker by presenting more wry, witty and knowing observation about genuine grown-up relationships in just a few minutes than Marc does in his entire movie.

Marc wants to walk a line between the raunch and the real in the manner of Judd Apatow, but he simply doesn't have the chops on either side to make it work. The shock comedy — a woman devours an ice cream cone with a little too much gusto, a man gets intimate with his vacuum cleaner — is too tamely and clumsily presented to land any big laughs. The attempts at emotional truths regarding (straight, white and middle-class) men and women — apparently women want stability while men want sex — all come off as too pat and contrived, not to mention more than a little old-fashioned.

The press materials for the film claim that "Dating Games People Play" is the first feature film shot in Newport Beach since the 1970 Phil Silvers/Norman Fell Disney comedy "The Boatniks." This neatly sidesteps the existence of the Newport-set "The O.C." on the small screen, which despite (or perhaps because of) its soap opera gloss and aspirational lifestyle devotion still seemed more connected to the right-now of both kids and adults than "Dating Games" ever manages. It makes even "The Boatniks" look hip by comparison.

"Dating Games People Play." Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. Exclusively at the Lido Theatre, 3459 Via Lido, Newport Beach; (949) 673-8350.

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