Reel Critics: Getting some laughs from cancer

A comedy about cancer isn't easy, but writer Will Reiser and co-star/co-producer Seth Rogen draw from personal experience to give "50/50" that rare blend of raw humor and emotion without artifice.

There are no wrong notes in this movie.

Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is 26 with a beautiful girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) and a beautiful mother (Angelica Huston), who both seem self-centered. Adam also has a rare form of cancer.

Numbed by the news, he endures insensitive doctors, clueless co-workers and chemotherapy. But always there is his best friend Kyle (Rogen), who in own his shaggy, blundering way is Adam's biggest champion.

These two play off each other wonderfully, especially in scenes where Kyle coaches newly single Adam on using his disease as a chick magnet. For Kyle, sex is the answer to almost all of life's problems.

Showing the same sweetness and wry humor that made him so great in "500 Days of Summer," Gordon-Levitt is terrific.

Huston gives a complex portrait as Adam's pushy mother. Anna Kendrick ("Up in the Air") is lovely as a therapist-in-training whose inexperience makes her almost more vulnerable than her patient.

Nowadays, hardly anyone's life has been untouched by cancer. Like "50/50," the best we can do is look at it squarely in the eye with a healthy dose of laughter.

Big Zero

"What's Your Number?" is a comedy that revolves around the former lovers in Ally Darling's life — most of them real losers. Believing that she'll never find true love if she adds one more guy to her "list" unless she's sure he's The One, Ally decides to revisit these men to see if any of them was maybe Mr. Right in disguise.

Sound dumb? It is! The only reason for seeing it is the comic daffiness of Anna Faris, who manages to seem adorable and skanky, clever and clueless. That's not as easy as it sounds.

After getting laid off (no pun intended), Ally decides to put her time to good use by locating her exes. She enlists the help of her hunky neighbor Colin (Chris Evans), who also has trouble with commitment beyond the first date.

Everybody can see within the first five minutes these two are a perfect match, but then what would we do for the next couple hours besides snack on junk food? Which, by the way, Ally and Colin turn into an art form.

I got a few good laughs at some of the guys in Ally's past — SNL's Andy Samberg is hilarious as a pimply puppeteer.

There's a lot of raunchy, anatomically specific dialogue, but it's not as sharply written or put to as good an effect as in the recent "Bridesmaids."

Mostly I felt embarrassed for the main character, who is just a hot mess desperate for a husband. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd have to give her a big fat zero.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine. JOHN DEPKO is off this week.

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