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How I know about 'How Do You Know'

James L. Brooks won an Academy Award directing Jack Nicholson in Best Picture Oscar winner "Terms of Endearment" in 1983.

Despite reuniting with Nicholson and teaming the perennial movie star with Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson and Paul Rudd, "How Do You Know" is like a simmering stew with fine cuts of beef and excellent vegetables, but no seasoning.

In other words, "How Do You Know" is bland, bland, bland and definitely not up to Brooks' legendary standards as writer-director.

How do I know?  Nicholson -- Yes, the Jack Nicholson -- is a bore in this offbeat romantic-comedy about four people grinding through transition in their lives.  

Let me tell you something.  When Jack Nicholson can't find a way to keep you engaged, there's something terribly wrong.

Witherspoon, an Oscar winner herself for channeling June Carter Cash in "Walk the Line," is at the center of this sluggish emotional whirling dervish that kicks up very little entertainment dust.

An aging former softball sensation at 31, Lisa (Witherspoon) is strapped emotionally when she's cut from the national team.  So what does she do?  She falls for Matty (Wilson), a self-centered, mini-skirt chasing relief pitcher for the Washington Nationals.

Brooks' plot wanders seriously off base, even for a feature film romantic-comedy contrivance.  Lisa accidentally becomes tangled with George (Rudd), an honest businessman who just happens to be under federal scrutiny.

I think if George were crooked as Wilson's nose, "How Do You Know" would be more fun.  Instead, it's George's old man (Nicholson) who's dirty.

So the dilemma that greases the plot machine is whether George will take the fall for dad and serve prison time and, of course, which man Lisa will choose.

"How Do You Know" sounds more intriguing than it really is.  This is a film that sputters along so lackadaisically that you'll have plenty time to think about last minute holiday shopping without missing much.

Well-orchestrated character driven comedies or comic-dramas (and Brooks has made a few) don't allow daydream time between opening and closing credits.

That's how I know it's OK to skip this one.


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