If you admire such films as Broadcast News, Terms of Endearment, and As Good as it Gets, as I do, you’ll be rooting for James L. Brooks to score another bull’s-eye with his latest effort. But it’s clear pretty early on that How Do You Know is a muddled misfire: a tiresome, talky romantic comedy about a bright young woman who, at a vulnerable moment in her life, can’t decide between two men—neither of whom seems terribly appealing. That these three characters are played by Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson and Paul Rudd makes it even more—
—disheartening. Worst of all, Jack Nicholson, who has given some of his best performances in Brooks’ movies, tries to negotiate an unplayable role as Rudd’s unsympathetic, self-absorbed father.
I could try to describe the story—as I started to do in a first draft of this review—but it would be a waste of your time and mine. Brooks establishes the traits and quirks of his three main characters and then has them do things that make no sense. The one constant throughout the film is the amount of talk that emanates from their lips; in fact, they don’t ever shut up.
Witherspoon has never looked more glamorous onscreen, which is the only thing I’m likely to remember about How Do You Know. There is nothing else positive to say about this sorry year-end release.