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A more appropriate title might have been “What Kind of Movie is This?”…
Perhaps the most redundant genre of film today is the romantic comedy. Often times when those two words are used to describe a film it often means that film is really more like a “chick flick”. These are supposed to be perfect date movies. The girls go for the romance, while the guys are supposed to enjoy the comedy. That is usually not the case, though. Still you usually know what to expect you go to watch a rom-com. But what happens when the term romantic comedy gets flipped upside down and you get a film, like What Love Is, that is totally unexpected?
What Love Is is set on Valentine’s Day. Tom (Cuba Gooding Jr.) has big plans. He’s about to get engaged and has a surprise party planned to share the good news with friends. But things take a turn for the worse. Tom returns home only to discover his girlfriend has packed up and left him. Now, instead of a surprise party, the surprise is on Tom. Fortunately, his friends, and a group of beautiful women, are there to hopefully help him make sense of it all.
This is fairly big ensemble cast. Cuba Gooding Jr. has certainly been in some less than stellar movies recently. But he is still a good leading man and he proves it once again here. However, don’t let that mislead you. This is not The Cuba Gooding Jr. Show. This is definitely an ensemble film. Unfortunately, all of the characters in the ensemble are blatant stereotypes. From the womanizer to the new-age hippie to the flamboyant gay guy to the bitch to the prude to the dumb blonde, almost every stereotype you can think of between groups of men and women are all on the screen here.
The plot of the film is only there in theory. Action and story is replaced by dialogue. Lots of lots of dialogue. What Love Is started out as a play, but ended up as a film. So the way this movie is presented is refreshing and somewhat unique. The entire film mostly takes place in Tom’s living room or his bathroom. Still some will be turned off by the fact that there is non-stop talking with most of it being extremely vulgar in nature. This is a film about sex, love, and relationships after all. That being said, for the most part all the talk is honest even though it is often over-the-top as well.
What Love Is is certainly an interesting and unique romantic comedy. The actors do a decent enough job with the stereotypical characters they are given to work with. Non-stop dialogue is the best way to describe this film. Does the dialogue lead to any great insight about relationships? Not really, which means this film doesn’t rise about being average at best. Still it is oddly interesting to watch, which also means that there are lots worse rom-coms out there.
The video is given in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen color, which is enhanced for 16:9 TVs. The video is pretty basic and nothing special at all. This is a direct-to-DVD film, so that means there was not a lot of money given to production. So there is noticeable graininess throughout.
The audio included is available in English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English, Spanish, and French as well. The dialogue and music come out loud and clear, so not as many problems as the video.
Audio Commentary – There is a full-length audio commentary from Mars Callahan (director/writer/actor), George Bours (producer), and John Hermansen (producer). This is both entertaining and informative. They definitely give more insight in making this movie.
“Making Love: The Making-Of What Love Is” Featurette – This is your standard “making-of” featurette, and it runs for 23 minutes. We hear comments from the main cast and crew members about the film. Just your typical “hard sell” job for this film.
I would recommend a rental of this film. It is interesting to watch, because it so unlike any other romantic comedy out there. That doesn’t make it the greatest film ever, though, so don’t go out of your way to see it. Still it’s short enough that you won’t be wasting your time if you did give this film a chance.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents What Love Is. Written and Directed by Mars Callahan. Starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Matthew Lillard, Sean Astin, Mars Callahan, Andrew Daly, Gina Gershon, and Anne Heche. Running time: 88 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD: April 1, 2008. Available at Amazon.com