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How to Be Single (2016)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/24/2016

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/11/2016

Over the years, we've seen "chick flicks", those romantic comedies aimed at a decidedly female audience, change and evolve (although, we may want to hold off on that second term). In decades past, these were very light and fluffy films, which often bordered on being fairy-tales in the "boy meets girl" tradition. They would be packed with montages featuring classic songs, and very conservative humor. However, several recent entries into this sub-genre have shown that girls can be naughty too and have introduced more bawdy humor, along with a more cynical attitude. Is this what audiences want? Let's take a look at How to Be Single.

As How to Be Single opens, college graduate Alice (Dakota Johnson), who has dated Josh (Nicholas Braun) during her time in school, has decided that she wants to be single, much to Josh's chagrin, so that she knows that she's making the right decision. She moves to New York City, where she moves in with her sister, Meg (Leslie Mann), an OB-GYN who has delivered 3000 babies, but has no love life of her own. At work, Alice meets Robin (Rebel Wilson), a party girl who loves to play the field. They frequent a bar owned by Tom (Anders Holm), a man who loves to be of service to women, but has no interest in a relationship. Living across the street from the bar is Lucy (Alison Brie), a young woman who cannot find Mr. Right. We watch as these people navigate the dating scene and learn what it is that they want from life.

In the event that you couldn't tell from the above synopsis, How to Be Single is yet another movie which features a large cast and a number of stories. (They really should have stopped making these after Love Actually.) With movies in this sub-genre, the various stories typically aren't all on a level playing field and there is at least one in which the viewer has no interest. The good news with How to Be Single is that the plots are on a level playing field -- they are all equally uninteresting. This occurs through a combination of bad casting and bad writing.

Let's start with Alice. I don't know who is determined to make Dakota Johnson a star, but they need to stop. In this film at least, she is incredibly bland and has no screen presence whatsoever. The main character in the movie should never be someone who is easy to ignore! Johnson's uninspired performance does no favors for a character who is constantly getting in her own way and making one odd decision after another. I like Rebel Wilson in the Pitch Perfect movies, but How to Be Single shows that she has become a one-note actress. She just flails around, saying outlandish things, meanwhile, she never becomes a fully-formed character. Meg is yet another professional woman who is too busy for a relationship. So, when the opportunity arises, she doesn't know what to do. This is probably the most complete character in the film, and it's a complete stereotype. In fact, everyone here is a stereotype and the movie tries absolutely nothing new or original when it comes to the people who inhabit its world. And seriously, Alison Brie can't get a date. We are supposed to believe that?

The funny thing is that How to Be Single thinks that it's doing something new and original when it comes to the plot. The female characters here are very empowered and they don't deny that they have sexual appetites. There is certainly a liberal spirit surrounding the movie and it doesn't back away from the notion of one-night stands or scatological humor, much of which comes from Wilson. The movie also thinks that it's being true to its title, which, the opening scene and last scene aside, it is not. The movie wants to be about women who have found their own voice and aren't afraid to be single. Instead, we get a group of characters who cannot be alone. What went wrong in the writing of this movie? Three screenwriters are credited, and the movie was supposedly adapted from a book of the same name by Liz Tuccillo. But, let's look at a synopsis of the book:

"Julie Jenson is a single thirty-seven-year-old book publicist in New York. When her friend Georgia’s husband leaves her for a samba teacher, she forces Julie to organize a single girls’ night out to remind her why it’s so much fun not to be tied down. But the night ends up having the opposite effect on Julie. Fed up with the dysfunction and disappointments of singledom, Julie quits her job and sets off to find out how women around the world are dealing with this dreaded phenomenon. From Paris to Brazil to Sydney, Bali, Beijing, Mumbai, and Reyjavik, Julie falls in love, gets her heart broken, sees the world, and learns more than she ever dreamed possible. All the while her friends at home are grappling with their own issues—bad blind dates, loveless engagements, custody battles, single motherhood, and the death of a loved one."

That's nothing at all like the movie I watched.

At it's core, How to Be Single wants to be yet another version of Sex and the City. And while it succeeds in bringing us four female characters who sort of fill that mode, it forgets to bring along any character development, heart, or true humor. So, as far as being a romantic-comedy, I don't think that I ever laughed out loud (although the reliable Damon Wayans Jr. has some good lines), and I didn't care at all about the love stories. How to Be Single needs to learn how to be a better movie.

How to Be Single should go back and make a movie of that book on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 26 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good and some of the street scenes show very good depth. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The nightclub scenes boast palpable bass, courtesy of the dance music, and some nice surround sound effects from the crowd. The street scenes deliver a few obvious stereo effects.

The How to Be Single Blu-ray Disc contains a few special features. "The Pros and Cons of How to Be Single" (5 minutes) has Wilson, Johnson, Brie, and some of the other actors describing the positive and negative qualities of their characters. "Rebel Rabble: A Look at Rebel Wilson" (4 minutes) has the actress discussing her character and her approach to the wild material, as others talk about what it's like to work with her. "The Best Idea Wins!: The Humor of How to Be Single" (6 minutes) takes us on-set to see how Director Christian Ditter and Co-Writer/Producer Dana Fox coached the actors and improvised dialogue. The Disc contains five DELETED SCENES which run about 8 minutes. Two of these contain a new subplot involving Damon Wayans Jr. and a co-worker. We not only get a 2-minute GAG REEL, but a separate reel of "Rebel Wilson Outtakes" (8 minutes).

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long