My dude Martin Freeman turned in one of the all-time great TV performances in the original British version of The Office, and that show went on to be a springboard for an international franchise. That didn't necessarily mean Hollywood glory was in Freeman's future; I mean, his American doppelganger can't even get steady movie work, and that guy's like 6-foot-4. Freeman did land a plum role alongside the future Yasiin Bey in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy back in 2005, but then sort of drifted back to the U.K. to knock out critical darlings like Sherlock.
How does one go about making something modern? It’s rarely as simple as updating the threads and snipping the telephone cords; not all stories can be unstuck from their time. So what’s the secret? Is it swapping some genders and boosting the adrenaline? Is it raising the (wooden) stakes by adding vampires and stovepipe hats full of CGI? Or is it finding the sweet spot between making people laugh and making them furious? The hidden trap of remakes and reboots often lies in the trappings; the more time one spends tweaking the context, the harder it is to hold on to whatever it was that interested us in the first place.
Mindy Kaling's great "Flick Chicks" piece in this week's New Yorker (an excerpt from her forthcoming book) attacked common female-character cliches in romantic comedies (Sassy Best Friend, Love-Starved Type A, Sexy Klutz, etc.) But what of the menfolk and their tropes? Every romantic comedy needs a dude willing to do what women do in most movies: Stand around and wait for the main character to take some action and make all the crucial decisions that will ultimately determine their fate.
Like a femme High Fidelity, What's Your Number? takes the traditional romantic comedy suitor and multiplies him by thirteen. The whole movie seems like it might just be a ruse to find the next big male romantic-comedy lead. We divvied up the What's Your Number? harem of actors and assessed their chances at romantic comedy guydom. Since we can't cast Ryan Gosling in everything all the time, there will have to be some alternates.