Running Time: 112 mins
Rated: Rated PG. (mild sexual references and coarse language)
Will (Reynolds), a 30-something Manhattan dad in the midst of a divorce, is surprised when his 10-year-old daughter, Maya (Breslin), starts to question him about his life before marriage. Maya wants to know absolutely everything about how her parents met and fell in love.
His story begins in 1992, as a young, starry-eyed aspiring politician who moves to New York from Wisconsin in order to work on the presidential campaign. For Maya, Will relives his past as an idealistic young man learning the ins and outs of big city politics, and recounts the history of his romantic relationships with three very different women.
Will hopelessly attempts a gentler version of his story for his daughter and changes the names soMaya has to guess who is the woman her dad finally married. Isher mother Will's college sweetheart, the dependable girl-next-door Emily (Banks)? Is she his longtime best friend and confidante, the apolitical April (Fisher)? Or is she the free-spirited but ambitious journalist Summer (Weisz)?
As Maya puts together the pieces of her dad's mystery love story, she begins to understand that love is not so simple or easy.
At just under two hours Definitely, Maybe is also far too long for the light story it tells.
But from the start there is a distracting and annoying believability problem. Ryan Reynolds is 31 years of age, and he looks boyish for that. As the film goes back from Ryan at 20 and Ryan at 35, Ryan never ages. Reynolds does a good job as far as it goes, although the number and strength of the times Will takes the Lord's name in vain is offensive, but the believability factor unravelled the film for me.
The worst thing by far, however, is that this film does the very thing it parodies.
Maya starts her questioning of her father's love-life because her sex education class at school gives too much information to the still too-young. When they find out, Will and the other parents are shocked by this sexualization of their children, but the film goes on to do exactly the same to Maya, and now Will is a willing accomplice.
Having a child as the driver of a romantic comedy grates on every level. We know from Little Miss Sunshine what a taleneted young actress Isla Breslin is, but here director Adam Brooks allows her to be a precocious brat. The fault also lies in the screenplay, which has some clunky dialogue and stupid setups.
Given its odd moral tone, this film comes with definite reservations.
Universal Open February 14
Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the director of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.