There is one particular question that has long bothered and befuddled some of our greatest minds -- Freudians, Jungians, Judd Apatowians, Seth Rogenians and other noted R-rated auteurs alike: Can an attractive female fall in love with, and I use the scientific term here, a schlub?
It remains a huge philosophical debate of course, so props to "She's Out of My League" for wading, unapologetically and unafraid, into the fraught and frothy surf of the "I'm not worthy" genre of films. And more props for doing so with a disarming sentimentality and a certain decency along with the requisite raunch and repressed rage.
The disarming part and much of the film's good humor comes courtesy of central schlub Kirk, played by Jay Baruchel as the kind of adult his gawky college freshman in "Undeclared" might have grown into if he had skipped class -- a smart, sweet underachiever who works security at an airport.
Now the un-hunks of the world may not always get the girl but they do come with a standard crew, at least in the movies. Kirk has Stainer (T.J. Miller) in the exceedingly dense but lovable lout role, Devon (Nate Torrence) the married romantic and expert on Princess Jasmine (of Aladdin . . . ), and Jack (Mike Vogel) as the coolest guy in their un-cool crowd and thus the sex guru because he's had sex (it's really not clear that Devon, despite the ring, really has).
"The girl" here is Molly (Alice Eve), a leggy blond beauty to which a lot of math is applied, as in "she's a hard 10, you're a 5, no way can a 5 date a 10," which is pretty much the entire premise of the movie.
Molly and Kirk meet at the airport after a very long tracking shot, mostly from above so that everyone can get a glimpse of her "assets," although the legs and the long flowing locks get a bit of screen time too. Kirk rescues Molly from the creep with the metal-detecting wand, because apparently despite terrorists' threats, if you're a beautiful blond you can get past security with a few well-distributed smiles. And thus their implausible love story begins.
There are rules to the form and the filmmakers hit most of the fundamental tropes in ways that range from surprisingly fresh to you-could- see-that-one-coming-a-mile-away.
On the fresh side, there is one bit that is bound to join the all-time raunch comedy annals with director Jim Field Smith showing a keen understanding of the fine art of milking "the implied" rather than stooping to "the exposed" when it comes to going for the laugh.
The filmmaking team is mostly unknown, at least at the moment, with the British director having previously done a few comedy shorts with names that are clever in that U.K. way, like "Where Have I Been All Your Life?" Screenwriters Sean Anders and John Morris have a couple of priors, including 2005's "Never Been Thawed," which was mainly seen by friends and family, and 2008's " Sex Drive," something of an underground cult hit. But with this film and the upcoming "Hot Tub Time Machine" (written with Josh Heald), they seem poised to become the newest members of the male comedy writers club that has become the go-to gene pool for studios looking for big payoffs from small investments.
Ads have already likened the film to "The Hangover," though it's not as tightly constructed or as consistently funny. But what helps get "She's Out of My League" through the rough patches and predictable moments is its sentimental side.
That soft touch, as opposed to the angry edge that has become de rigueur for the genre, means the girls aren't quite so classically bitchy. Molly does have the Sarah Silverman-style friend, Patty (Krysten Ritter), dropping F-bombs all over the place, and Kirk's ex is a bit of a ranter -- but it's all dialed down a notch. On the plus side, Molly's smarter and more independent than most of those shoved into the pretty girl box.
Nothing would work, though, without the appealing Baruchel, who has floated through a lot of R-ratings since his "Undeclared" days, including "Knocked Up" and "Tropic Thunder," and is the voice of Hiccup, the Viking teen star in the upcoming "How to Train Your Dragon" animated movie.
What he brings to "She's Out of My League," in addition to the geek and the gawk, is a dash of the debonair, which might seem impossible and yet he does. The character also goes for polite over pot as a central reason for his schlubian state, a quality so rare in these modern times that it seems like an entirely new concept. What's next, no more knuckle-dragging friends?