There are two things that can get my ass into an Ashton Kutcher movie on a Friday night: Natalie Portman and the Norbit syndrome.
No Strings Attached isn’t good. It’s predictable, lame and, worst of all, completely ordinary. But following her flawless, Oscar-worthy turn in Black Swan, I’d watch Natalie Portman type out passages from the phone book for two hours. She makes No Strings Attached (moderately) worthwhile, bringing her customary wave of charm and playful spitefulness to her role as a doctor unwilling to commit to her happy-go-lucky friend with whom she shares sexual benefits.
You don’t need me to tell you where the movie is going, but, if I’m being honest, I didn’t completely loath it. I genuinely laughed out loud a half a dozen times (thanks much in part to its foul language-embracing R rating), and was left with a feeling of contentment once the credits rolled. No Strings Attached isn’t going to change any lives, but it won’t make you wish for your time back, either.
But there’s something else to mention here, which may indeed be the main reason No Strings Attached isn’t deplorable.
During the early months of 2007, one thing was clear as the Oscar race heated up: Eddie Murphy was going to win Best Supporting Actor for his revelatory performance in Dreamgirls. Then Norbit came out. Norbit proved to Oscar voters what they had been trying to forget for the past few months: Eddie Murphy is… Eddie Murphy. His Dreamgirls role was a fluke, and he shouldn’t be rewarded with an Oscar just weeks after releasing a God awful embarrassment like Norbit.
Norbit, and its star, received awful reviews. Alan Arkin won the Oscar. And Eddie Murphy went back to being… Eddie Murphy.
That was my fear of No Strings Attached. Norbit proved that it is possible for an actor to ruin his or her chances at winning a shoe-in Oscar. Will Natalie Portman appearing in a generic rom-com damage her chances of nabbing an Oscar for Black Swan? Not a chance. Hell, if No Strings Attached hadn’t casted a talking mannequin as its lead actor, it may have actually been, dare I say, good. C-