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Wheels up for Carell's star vehicle

"Crazy, Stupid, Love" arrives totally as a surprise and packs a goofy entertainment sucker punch that refreshes, stimulates and causes a lump to form in the throat.

I like the title.  That's exactly what crazy, stupid love does to a person.

Perhaps the title is more than a little bit redundant, but the new starring vehicle for "Office" (on TV) expatriate Steve Carell sports an impact and sophistication we rarely see in the dog days of cinematic summer.

Before you'll even have a chance to drop a dollop of popcorn butter-like, nuclear waste-like substance on your shirt or blouse, a life bomb wrecks the emotional landscape of one Cal Weaver (Carell).

His wife and high school sweetheart Emily (Julianne Moore) blurts out that she wants a divorce.  And while she's blurting, Emily confesses that she slept with a guy (Kevin Bacon) from her office.  These heart-stunning revelations fire across a restaurant table at the very moment Cal was sure Emily was about to announce her dessert choice.

"Crazy, Stupid, Love," unlike many middle-age crazy flicks, keeps at least one foot -- OK a toe or two -- grounded in reality.  

Suddenly single in his 40s, Cal hits the neighborhood disco bar.  Sipping a girly drink from a straw, he's greeted by blank stares from the general 20/30something mojito slurpers on the prowl for love, or at least someone to make the long night pass a little less painfully.

This might be a different film if it were directed and/or written by a woman.

It's not, though.  Co-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who collaborated on Jim Carrey's outrageous dark comedy "I Love You Phillip Morris" last year, take a script by Dan Fogelman ("Tangled," "Cars") and fill the screen with dark humor, steamy romance and surprises in the final reel that might just curl your hair (assuming you have some).

Jacob (Ryan Gosling of "Blue Valentine" and "Lars and the Real Girl"), the local disco stud, takes Cal under his wing.  He shows his sadsack, jilted elder what to wear, what drink to order, how to wear his hair and what to say to fish for willing companions for the evening.

I won't go into details, especially when it comes to Cal's needy commitment to his almost-ex or his encounter with a love-starved disco tart portrayed with excellent full-tilt boogie by Oscar winner Marisa Tomei.

It's best to simply strap in for the ride with a movie like this.

Just know that Carell, making the transition from a very popular TV sitcom ("The Office"), no longer needs training wheels for his star vehicles.  This is where Carell finally gets smart and learns how to stroke his hangdog victim acting tools into a big screen arsenal.

And while we're on the subject of actors finding solid footing, let's add Emma Stone, who plays aspiring attorney Hannah, to that list.

Stone ("Easy A," "Zombieland"), either blessed or cursed to bear a striking resemblance to troubled actress Lindsay Lohan, displays an acting range in this one that I, for one, was surprised by.  Very pleasant surprise, that.

This film is at times crazy and stupid.  

I loved it.


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