11:30 PM EDT, September 12, 2013
To all those hung up on the idea of finding the perfect mate, "Benny & Joon" director Jeremiah Chechik's "The Right Kind of Wrong" suggests that compatible idiosyncrasies ultimately make for better matches. Saving its quirk for the characters rather than for the filmmaking style, this intermittently charming romantic comedy gets auds rooting for a shaggy-dog type who falls for the girl of his dreams on the afternoon of her wedding. The uphill courtship is affable enough, despite the obvious creep factor, but lacks a compelling enough hook to seduce a significant release beyond its native Canada.
A character that practically begs for a Seth Rogen type -- or at least someone less immediately adorable than "True Blood" mouth-breather Ryan Kwanten -- frustrated writer Leo Palamino sits by as his wife Julie (Kristen Hager) walks out. Adding insult to injury, she launches a scathing (and instantly popular) blog called "Why You Suck" that exposes all his flaws and positions her to be the publishing sensation he never managed to achieve on his own.
While the whole world enjoys having a laugh at Leo's expense, the suggestion here is that he isn't such a bad person, just the wrong fit for his ex. According to Leo's own narration (which paradoxically comes from his unsuccessful, already-published novel "Sex and Sunsets"), among the qualities Julie saw as flaws are his "unrealistic dreams." This delusional optimism is precisely what gives him the courage to full-court press Colette (Sara Canning), despite the fact their ill-timed meet-cute occurs just moments before she says "I do" to seemingly perfect attorney/philanthropist/Olympic athlete Danny Hart (Ryan McPartlin) -- the sort of specimen who makes Greek statues feel inadequate.
But if Leo is a flawed guy just looking for his soul mate, why can't Colette be someone for whom the ideal man simply isn't enough? That's the long-shot hope on which all of Leo's ambitions hang, allowing him to blithely soldier past his shortcomings and pursue this near-total stranger. With help from best friend Neil (Will Sasso), a couple of Indian kids and an unlikely ally in Charlotte's misfit mom (breath of fresh air Catherine O'Hara), Leo resorts to stalking, spying and just plain intruding on her newly married life.
Such is the unique pleasure of the romantic-comedy genre -- that no obstacle is too great for true love -- and though Megan Martin's script (from Tim Sandlin's novel) boasts its share of outrageous moments (including far too much attention paid to Sasso's scrotum), the overall tone feels downright old-fashioned, as if the team had set out to make a feature-length riff on "The Graduate's" wedding-crashing climax. There are even a few physical gags -- including one involving a slingshot, a hang glider and a precarious arrangement of pastries -- that may as well be lifted from another century.
In the end, while Leo may never quite disprove his "loser" label, he boasts a yearning underdog appeal that wins strangers to his side -- if only each plot twist weren't quite so easy to telegraph in advance. Credit Kwanten for turning the character, whose limited talents include juggling plates in his dead-end dishwashing job, into someone so winning, without the actor having to remove his shirt until the very last shot.
Chechik and d.p. Luc Montpellier apply an almost candy-colored, hyper-saturated finishing coat to the otherwise blase lensing, making the film's occasional visual effects (including a white "Spirit Bear" who stumbles into the alpine setting from time to time) look all the more contrived.
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