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Rom-com 'No Stranger Than Love' has a hole in its heart

Everybody loves Lucy, the perky art teacher played by Alison Brie in "No Stranger Than Love."

But few will likely embrace the insufferably chirpy, high-concept rom-com that struggles to stretch a mighty shallow premise into a feature-length proposition.

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When Lucy confesses to married high school coach Clint (Colin Hanks) that she loves him, he plummets down a giant, dark hole that suddenly materializes in the middle of her house, essentially putting the kibosh on their intended tryst.

While Clint is heard but not seen for the remainder of the film, Lucy traipses around town trying to figure out how to save him, dodging the attentions of her many not-so-secret admirers as well as Clint's bookie, Rydell (Justin Chatwin), who has a gambling debt to settle.

In the hands of say, a Charlie Kaufman, the film might have utilized that literal "taking the plunge" set-up to move the story into some intriguing places, but the only direction this first directorial effort by Nick Wernham travels is circular.

With a cloyingly mannered script by Steve Adams (a nephew of the late Kurt Vonnegut) and broadly-drawn characters that remain stuck to the page despite the energetic efforts of Brie and company, the Canadian production settles for sitcom-style conventions.

By the time Wernham and Adams attempt to tackle more substantial themes in the third act, it's all too little, too late — they've already lost their audience down that deep hole in Lucy's living room.

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'No Stranger Than Love'

MPAA rating: R for language

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood

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