Never, not once, has it failed: Every time I resolve to soften my heart to romantic comedies, to give this fluffy genre one more chance, a lemon like “Something Borrowed” comes down the line and reinforces the distaste anew. “Something Borrowed” is bland. It’s derivative. It’s wimpy. And Ginnifer Goodwin’s wig rivals Kate Bosworth’s “Superman Returns” rug in sheer obviousness.
Right from the start, though, the problem is not the wig, or even the plot (uninspired at best); it is the lack of sympathetic or halfway interesting characters. In all of the film’s running time, there emerges exactly one person worth rooting for, and he’s left hanging, written out solely to suit the purposes of the maddeningly unsatisfying conclusion. Here’s the setup: Sensible Rachel (Goodwin) and flighty Darcy (Kate Hudson) have been best friends since childhood. Their old pal Ethan (John Krasinski) has stuck close too, though he long ago wrote off Darcy as a selfish, high-maintenance shrew (yahtzee!). Darcy’s engagement to Dex (a “meh” Colin Egglesfield) presents a rather large problem for Rachel, who’s been in love with him since law school. Neither ever mustered to courage to make a move back then; naturally, now that the timing is lousy, they start a boring affair — boring because both Rachel and Dex are spineless. Rachel won’t force him to choose between her or Darcy, and Dex won’t call off the wedding because — here’s the cherry on the sundae — he thinks it is the only antidote to his mother’s depression. Right. That’s one for the books.
Three other characters get sucked into this stupid, pointless love triangle: the affable Ethan, Ethan’s oddball stalker Claire (Ashley Williams) and Marcus (Steve Howey), Dex’s loutish best friend. Claire, who wears rainbow-print dresses and has that Margot-Kidder-in-the-bush look about her, is almost too giddy and clueless to seem human. She’s a caricature. While Marcus is a caveman, at least he’s not a poser: he says what he thinks, even when what he thinks is really, really dumb and offensive. Ethan, thanks to Krasinki’s rumpled regular guy appeal and comic timing, emerges as a likable chap — perceptive, easygoing, funny. He advises Rachel to make Dex to show some backbone. But even Ethan proves himself to be something of a weenie: Instead of taking his own advice, he lies to Claire about being gay and runs away from her every chance he gets. Like all the other characters (except Marcus) in “Something Borrowed,” Ethan wallows and avoids; he can’t muster the gumption to go after what he wants or dismiss what he doesn’t. In actual life, that’s mildly annoying; in a romantic comedy, it’s totally insufferable.
Jennie Snyder’s meandering script and the lackluster acting make the absence of agreeable characters even less tolerable. Snyder seems determined to make sure the characters spend as much time floundering as possible. Whining and pining must be used sparingly to create romantic tension; Rachel and Dex flounder so long in “Something Borrowed” that by the conclusion we’ve all but lost interest. How can two people this indecisive possibly generate any heat, much less build a lasting relationship? Darcy and Rachel’s supposed “sisterhood” is just as baffling because Darcy is a self-serving flake, and Rachel is blind to her narcissism. Goodwin and Hudson don’t have much chemistry, either. (Note to Kate Hudson: Please stop taking these vapid parts.) Egglesfield isn’t given much of a role to work with, but he’s vanilla — a leading man in looks only. Howey gets some laughs with his neanderthal behavior, though he’s not given enough to do. Goodwin, who’s far too talented an actress to keep doing derivative drivel like this, tries hard and occasionally tugs at our hearts (barely).
It’s Krasinski whose wisecracks and amusing facial expressions brighten the film. Whatever part he takes, Krasinski can’t put a lid on his laidback charm and sincerity; it breaks up the dullness in “Something Borrowed.” And any film that makes the choice between the lively, funny, attractive guy and the model-hot but gutless one look like a hard choice is an insult to the audience’s intelligence. Worse, it’s a waste of time.