LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – Predictable, cutesy and nowhere near hot-blooded enough for a story about two friends with benefits who can’t keep their hands off one another, �No Strings Attached� just barely squeaks by due to its larky depiction of the management of a sex-by-appointment relationship.
In the sort of blandly mainstream romantic comedy she has generally avoided, Natalie Portman works overtime to keep the leaky ship afloat, but Ashton Kutcher can’t be budged out of puppy dog mode. Date and girls’ night out appeal is sufficient for Paramount to anticipate decent mid-winter box-office returns for this rosy-cheeked (and occasionally exposed-cheeked) R-rated romp.
Returning from the longest hiatus of his career (his last feature was the unheroic �My Super Ex-Girlfriend,� five years ago), director Ivan Reitman’s technique looks a little rusty, especially in the early-going, as it’s clunkily established that Emma (Portman) and Adam (Kutcher) have been potential bedbuds ever since he made an unseemly pubescent proposition 15 years earlier.
Grown-up now in Los Angeles, Emma is a d is a writer on a �Glee�-like TV show who, in a grossly overdone interlude, drinks himself senseless upon learning that his vapid girlfriend has taken up with his much-married dad, former TV star Alvin (Kevin Kline).
Awakening from his bender naked in the apartment Emma shares with three sitcom-ready roommates, Adam takes advantage of his natural state by finally getting it on with this no-nonsense young lady, who soon proposes they regularly meet for sex but nothing more.
No guy is going to turn down a deal like that, but the mild twist in Elizabeth Meriwether’s screenplay is that it’s Adam who craves getting serious, not Emma, who works 80 hours per week and claims she’s no good at real relationship stuff.