The rap on Anna Faris has always been that she’s untapped comedic potential; that she’s a quirky talent; that she deserves better than the roles with which she’s saddled; that she’s the best thing about whatever movie she’s in. That’s what critics said about Faris when she broke out in the Scary Movie series, and that’s still what many are saying about her a decade later. But after 10 years and a string of terrible romantic comedies, you have to wonder if Faris is as much the problem as the scripts she chooses. You can’t fairly say that Anna Faris is the best thing in What’s Your Number? when the cast also includes Chris Evans, Joel McHale, Chris Pratt, Andy Samberg, Eliza Coupe, Blythe Danner, Zachary Quinto, Thomas Lennon, Ari Graynor, Anthony Mackie, and Aziz Ansari.
Anna Faris is not the best talent in What’s Your Number?; she falls to about ninth or tenth on that list. And the movie still blows chunks of bleached blonde pubic hair. You can’t lay the blame entirely with everyone else when ten more people in this movie also deserve better, and in most cases, bring more to their short two-minute scenes than Faris brings to the entire film. An actress with as much potential as Faris allegedly has ought to be able to do something transformative, transcend terrible, or at least elevate risible material to something watchable. Faris doesn’t do that. She never really has. At a certain point — say, the live-action Yogi Bear movie — you have to concede the point: Anna Faris is right where she belongs: Toiling away in bad romantic comedies that underperform at the box office.
In What’s Your Number?, Faris plays Ally, an “off-beat” woman who realizes, after reading an article in Cosmo, that women who sleep with more than 20 men are destined for spinsterhood. Instead of questioning the logic of the piece, reading the underlying study upon which it’s based, or using common sense, Ally does what any ditzy woman in a shitty high-concept romcom would do: She tallies up her booty count, realizes she’s hit 19, makes a pact not to sleep with anyone else who isn’t her husband, gets shitfaced, and promptly fucks her finger-smelling ex-boss (Joel McHale).
Therefore, and so as to never achieve the magic number of 21 Fuk BudZ, Ally then decides to track down her 20 former lovers and force a relationship with one of them, honestly under the misconception that, if she fails to do so, science will take away her happiness. She enrolls the assistance of her across-the-hall neighbor, Colin (Chris Evans), whose defining characteristic is a habit of standing nude in his doorway. He’s in a band. She makes creepy clay statuettes (how quirky!). Obviously, they’re perfect for each other, if only they’d realize it. Bing, bang, boom, yadda yadda yadda, one dumb plot contrivance by another, a strip H-O-R-S-E scene, the sister’s wedding, big speech, epiphany, chase, kiss, roll credits.
What’s Your Number is a marketing plan writ large, built entirely around an advertising strategy. There are absolutely no emotions, no jokes, and no developments in What’s Your Number? that you cannot surmise from the trailers. In fact, in the case of some of the cameos, their entire scenes are in the TV spots; in one case, a cameo gets more screen time in the trailer than the film. Moreover, there is not a single authentic moment in the movie; in fact, there’s not even a well-executed manipulative moment. They can’t even get mawkish right. It’s a terribly written, terribly edited film full of likable people doing unexceptional, unremarkable work. All in all, yet another tedious, unendurable film on Anna Faris’ filmography. It’s time for Ms. Faris to step aside now and let someone else with huge potential actually demonstrate it onscreen.