Ah yes, this year's obligatory Valentine's Day romantic comedy: Definitely, Maybe. Taking a page from The Princess Bride's format, Definitely, Maybe follows the story a father, Will (Ryan Reynolds), tells his 10-year-old daughter, Maya (Abigail Breslin), about the women he has dated, changing their names and letting her guess which one became her mom, with whom he is now finalizing a divorce.
Yes, the premise is convoluted, and even in the first act, Maya's preternatural enthusiasm threatens to push Definitely, Maybe over the precipice, into a pit filled with thousands of awful, forgotten romcoms. Luckily, Reynolds is an eminently likeable protagonist, and the three women who inhabit his past, Emily (the college sweetheart, played by Elizabeth Banks), April (the free-spirited best friend, played by Isla Fisher), and Summer (the sophisticated, driven journalist, played by Rachel Weisz) are sufficiently divergent, interesting, and respectable as they take turns breaking Will's heart.
While billed as a comedy, the laughs in Definitely, Maybe are hardly uproarious, and largely stem from Will forgetting who he's recounting the story to, accidentally letting slip details about smoking, drinking, and threesomes, which Maya takes him to task for. But there are chuckles in here, gently delivered primarily by Reynolds and Fisher. As for the other half of the "romcom" label, the romance here is more practical than fairy-tale sticky, with bad timing weaving its way through the film's various relationships.
Against the odds, Definitely, Maybe manages to avoid pandering to the fairer sex, too—a realization confirmed when I glanced over halfway through the film to see my own (picky, anti-romcom) boyfriend laughing and enjoying himself. I'm not saying this is one for the ages; I probably wouldn't watch it again, and it failed to make me cry (the best ones do). But as far as the genre goes, it manages to break some tired stereotypes and get you to smile more often than squirm.