'Dating Games People Play'
Even the background music overshadows the contrived, limited observations about grown-up relationships.
Austin Peck and Leslie Bega try their hands at a real relationship in Dating Games People Play. (Christel Golden / Marc Entertainment)
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.