For a movie about three intelligent women — well, two intelligent women and an amiable assemblage of curves played by model Kate Upton — “The Other Woman” is disappointingly, disturbingly dumb.
The tale of an unexpected friendship among three victims of a serial cheater, “The Other Woman” is caught, frustratingly, between the girl-power revenge of “The First Wives Club” and the gross-out squirms of “Bridesmaids.”
Minutes whiz past by the dozens without a recognizably human reaction. Scenes are punctuated by vomit, a dog taking a dump on the floor and a second, more elaborate “fecal incident.” And Cameron Diaz falls into some bushes. Twice. She also looks to have taken out some shrubbery during her tumble out of a second-story window.
It’s as though the sole bit of instruction from director Nick Cassavetes (“The Notebook”) was “be zany.”
Entrepreneur Mark King (“Game of Thrones’” Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Carly Whitten (Diaz), described by her cartoonish secretary (Nicki Minaj) as “a ruthless law robot,” seem like the perfect couple. Expensive clothes. Luxurious hotel hookups. Fancy dates all over Manhattan. He even picks up something for her from Tiffany for their eight-week anniversary.
Then Mark wakes up in Connecticut next to his loving wife, Kate (Leslie Mann), who bombards him with tales of people’s brains exploding from eating undercooked bacon while she pees in front of him.
The women learn about each other when Carly tries to surprise Mark by showing up at his home dressed as a slutty plumber (already a leading candidate for this year’s go-to Halloween costume). But instead of hating Carly, Kate stalks her into submission, always with her horse-sized dog in tow, until the two bond over alcohol and pretty clothes.
That friendship is put to the test, though, when Kate overhears Mark making plans for a romantic getaway. But he’s not talking to Carly. It’s a third woman, Amber (Upton), whose occupation appears to be “bombshell.” Following a girl-crush from Kate and a surge of jealousy from Carly, Amber joins their weird little club — dubbed by Carly as “The Lawyer, The Wife and The Boobs” — and the three begin plotting revenge.
Described in the movie’s press notes as “ingenious,” their schemes — involving estrogen and laxatives, as well as hair remover in Mark’s shampoo — sound like something hatched during junior high study hall. Presumably, they’re saving the old flaming-bag-of-poo-on-his-doorstep gag for the Blu-ray.
Mann is a perky, gung-ho comic treasure. And she lends Kate an exasperated, worn-out charm, as seen when she unloads on Carly: “You had sex with my husband 50 times? Don’t you have a job? Or hobbies? What’s wrong with you?”
Later, when Carly suspects Kate may have just slept with Mark again, Kate is incredulous. “It’s barely dark outside!”
But director Cassavetes eventually lets Mann overdo things, wielding her histrionics like a bomb instead of a bayonet.
Coster-Waldau is far more problematic as the three-timing Mark. Looking like a prettier Denis Leary, he ends up riding a toilet seat as though he’s doing a dinner-theater version of Harry from “Dumb and Dumber.” And, when he gets his comeuppance, he throws a hissy fit/tantrum that’s avert-your-eyes embarrassing. Villains conduct themselves with more dignity when their evil plans are undone by those meddling kids on “Scooby-Doo.”
The script is writer Melissa Stack’s first produced screenplay, and her few good lines and interesting insights either get stepped on or lost in the supposed hilarity.
It’s saying something when Kate’s hunky contractor brother (“Chicago Fire’s” Taylor Kinney), a fantasy creation that feels as though it were concocted during the dying days of “Sex and the City,” is the movie’s most relatable character.
Following “Draft Day” and “Transcendence,” “The Other Woman” marks the third straight weekend with a major release written by a first-timer. Judging from these three, there’s something to be said for experience.
Then again, Cassavetes has plenty of it, and he has almost no idea what to make of that script.
Songs are piled on top of songs. A scene where Carly and Kate spy on Mark is set to the theme from “Mission: Impossible.” To signal a transition from the Bahamas, where the trio scurry around a resort’s swimming pool with binoculars, to New York, it isn’t enough to show the city’s unmistakable skyline. “The Other Woman” beats you over the head with Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” Several times, apparently unaware of what to do with a scene, Cassavetes just pumps up some music to drown out the dialogue.
“The Other Woman” feels like the sort of movie that may go down better with your girlfriends and a bottle (or seven) of wine.
But if that’s not an option, just bring along your iPod and shove in your earbuds whenever things get bad.
That couldn’t possibly feel any more out of place than some of Cassavetes’ choices.
— Christopher Lawrence reviews movies for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org