Anyone But You earns 2.5 stars (out of 4) from Us Weekly movie critic Mara Reinstein.
They don’t make romantic comedies anymore — well, they don’t make ‘em like they used to anymore. What’s the last great one you loved in the theater? How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days? Love, Actually? Yeah, both are 20 years old.
No wonder before the December 11 world premiere of Anyone But You, director and co-screenwriter Will Gluck (Easy A) half-joked to the audience, “Welcome to the last rom-com in the history of cinema!”
It would be an honor to report that Anyone But You, starring Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell, is a witty gem that harkens back to rom-com favorites from the past and will swiftly usher in a round of sunny delights in the future. Nope. There’s too little credible rom or laugh-out-loud com. There’s even less originality in this loose adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
And though it is sunny, that’s because most of the story unfolds in exotic Australia. So if you think of the pic merely as a wish-you-were-here postcard of beautiful people with beautiful bodies frolicking in a beautiful place, you’ll make out just fine. That is, as you watch the beautiful people make out.
Bea (Sweeney) and Ben (Powell) lock eyes in a crowded Boston coffee shop. (The feisty old man in The Holiday would likely cringe at the Meet Cute.) They go back to Ben’s place, banter it up and fall asleep in each other’s arms. It’s the idyllic first date — but due to a two-way misunderstanding, the romance is over before it starts.
The pair could have cleared things up in a few texts, but then there would be no movie. Instead, six months later, they’re forced to reconnect because, as pure coincidence, her sister (Hadley Robinson) becomes engaged to the sister (Alexandra Shipp) of his roommate (GaTa). Adding to the awkwardness, the families soon throw them a destination wedding in Sydney. Frequent flier miles galore for everyone!
An unhappy Bea and Ben let the tart insults fly. She calls him “a f–k boy” twice. He mocks her about her recent broken engagement. Obviously, all the teasing is code for “I really like you, and this is my pathetic attempt at flirting!” George Clooney and Julia Roberts are such pros at this flavor of repartee, they even wrung laughs out of their uninspired lines in last year’s Ticket to Paradise. Powell and Sweeney, though appealing, aren’t there yet. Their exchanges fall flat.
In a contrived only-in-the-movies twist, Bea’s pushy parents (Dermot Mulroney and Rachel Griffiths) invite her ex-fiancé (Darren Barnet in a thankless role) Down Under in the hopes of a reconciliation. During the same weekend of their other daughter’s wedding?! Sure.
Meanwhile, Ben is dismayed that his former Aussie girlfriend (Charlee Fraser) is also on-hand for the festivities. Solution: Bea and Ben decide to fake a romance to get her parents off her back and make his sexy ex jealous. The conceit is ridiculous. It does, however, enable Sweeney and Powell the chance to put their hands down each other’s bare backsides for laughs and for Powell to frantically strip nude in front of his loved ones.
Anyone But You relies on that brand of joke. There’s zero percent chance these two don’t end up together, so it’s only a matter of how many predictable second-rate hijinks we must endure before Ben chases after Bea and finally declares his true feelings by listing all the things he loves about her. This is not a spoiler; it’s rom-com 101. Why, oh why, didn’t the writers level up to the genre’s master’s program?
Not to say Anyone But You is a total miss. Sweeney and Powell possess a natural onscreen charm, and Sweeney shows off her impressive physical humor skills on the airplane. With sharper material, they may have pulled this off. Amid a season full of heavy and heavy-handed winter fare, a trifling respite has its benefits. And a breezy group sing-along to an early ‘00s classic in the closing moments is a shrewd way to ensure audiences leave on a high note.
Also delightful is the casting of the great Mulroney in the dad role. It’s hard to believe 26 summers have passed since Roberts and Cameron Diaz fought over him in My Best Friend’s Wedding. He has a headful of distinguished gray hair now. At this rate, we will too by the time we get another rom-com classic.
Anyone But You opens in theaters on Friday, December 22.