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How to Be Single far from a home run 

Rating: **

HOW TO BE SINGLE
** (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Christian Ditter
STARS Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson

Leslie Mann, Dakota Johnson and Rebel Wilson in How to Be Single (Photo: Warner Bros.)
  • Leslie Mann, Dakota Johnson and Rebel Wilson in How to Be Single (Photo: Warner Bros.)

The excellent moments in How to Be Single — and, yes, there are a handful — are like those woeful few seeds that are flung by a farmer onto a fertile field but instead end up landing on a rock, unable to take root and isolated from everything else developing around them.

Honestly, there will be few other movies over the course of 2016 as frustrating as this adaptation of Liz Tuccillo's book, a quasi-"girl power" picture that alternates between perceptive and puerile at such breakneck speed that some viewers might be tempted to sue for whiplash. The focus is on a group of young women, two of whom are looking for love (usually in the wrong places) and two of whom are not. Alice (Dakota Johnson, having survived Fifty Shades of Grey) separates from her boyfriend Josh (Nicholas Braun), the guy she expects to marry, in order to find herself — or get laid by someone else, whichever comes first. Lucy (Alison Brie) wants a boyfriend but ends up dating men as insufferable as herself. Meg (Leslie Mann) wants a baby without commitment and opts for artificial insemination, but then finds herself getting mixed up with nice (and younger) guy Ken (Jake Lacy). And Robin (Rebel Wilson), in the immortal words of Poison, don't need nothin' but a good time, preferring drunken flings to anything more substantial.

In what's become a common occurrence, Mann is again the best thing in a so-so movie, and the Meg-Ken plotline is by far the most interesting. Alice's scenes with a player (Anders Holm) who becomes her confidante following their one-night stand are refreshing — it's rare to see a film in which a man and a woman remain friends after having casual sex — but the sequences involving the other dudes in her life (Braun's Josh, Damon Wayans Jr.'s David) are the victims of clumsy writing. Lucy is so annoying that all of her vignettes register as dead weight. And Robin is the latest role that allows Wilson to be confident, assertive and sex-positive ... and then puts her through the usual humiliating moves reserved for plus-sized people in movies.

Too bad. With some tightening up of both characterizations and scenarios, How to Be Single could have been a worthy entry in the rom-com genre. As it stands, though, it looks to remain always a bridesmaid, never a Bridesmaids.

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