‘Love, Guaranteed’ offers little more than by-the-numbers romance

Rachael Leigh Cook and Damon Wayans Jr. in “Love, Guaranteed” / Netflix

There’s nothing exceptional about the new Netflix romantic comedy “Love, Guaranteed,” but it is a way to spend time at home as Covid-19 flares back up across the nation.

Too bad it just didn’t go away after the election like so many predicted.

“Love, Guaranteed” is a pleasant enough movie that’s likable enough to veg out on the couch with your significant other or a tub of ice cream, whichever is applicable. Chances are you’ll doze through a portion of it even though its length is a crisp hour and a half, but don’t worry, you’ll easily be able to catch up to its rote plot.

The story is formulaic and as familiar as your favorite pillow and blanket, The leads, Rachel Leigh Cook and Damon Wayons Jr., have enough individual charisma to carry this light and airy movie that boasts production values that are a couple of notches above your average Hallmark or Lifetime TV movie, but whose plot is pure sap nestled under a light coating of cynicism.

Cook plays struggling lawyer Susan Whitaker, who takes on too much pro bono work for the good of her two-person staff and herself, but she can’t help that at heart she’s just a sweet person.

Wayons’s character Nick is introduced to be the sour too Cook’s sweet, but he has got too much charm for that to work as a character trait, and it’s forgotten almost as quickly as it’s introduced in the movie.

Nick has been burned by love, and he plans to take it out on an on-line dating site that guarantees a client will find love if he or she goes on 1,000 dates. With his 1,000th date in his crosshairs, Nick contacts Susan to represent him in the the case aiming to take down the cheesy on-line site ran by the health and wealth celebutant Tamara Taylor (Heather Graham).

At first Susan is hesitant to take the case, but when Nick offers a big check as a retainer, she and her goofy set of legal assistants Denise (Lisa Durupt) and Roberto (Sean Amsing) begin to piece together a case to take down the the dating app. The research leads to Susan joining Taylor’s dating site and going on a couple of miserable dates as research.

Susan and Nick also begin to spend time with each other, and while sparks don’t really fly, there is an attraction that only grows the more they are together.

The film climaxes with the litigants in court, and while I won’t spoil the ending, you’ve probably already correctly guessed where the film ends.

It’s hard not to like Cook and Wayons, but honestly their talent deserves better written or at least more challenging material than this sort of pablum that’s regrettably weak by any standard.

Watch if you must, but there are better romantic comedies more worthy of your time.

(TV-PG) 1 hr. 31 min.
Grade: C-

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Classic Corner – Humphrey Bogart

Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor in “The Maltese Falcon” / Warner Bros.

Few stars commanded the silver screen like Humphrey Bogart. Whether playing a hood, a private detective, a nightclub operator, river boat captain or love-struck businessman, Bogie was the epitome of a man’s man.

If you don’t believe it, then set your DVR on Turner Classic Movies this Tuesday at 5 a.m. and let it record until the eight-film marathon ends at 6:30 p.m. and see. At first Bogart may seem little more than a caricature, but the more you watch him, the more you see and feel the nuances he imbues in his characters.

On tap are:
5 a.m. — The Petrified Forest
6:30 a.m. — San Quentin
7:45 a.m. — Racket Busters
9 a.m. — King of the Underworld
10:15 a.m. — They Drive By Night
12 p.m. — The Maltese Falcon
1:45 p.m. — The Big Sleep
4 p.m. — The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Bogie’s at least good in all the movies, but “The Petrified Forest” (1936) was the film where he first distinguished himself as a tough guy to be reckoned with as a devil-may-care killer Duke Mantee.

It would take Bogart five years to rise to star status with 1941’s “The Maltese Falcon,” the film noir scripted and directed by John Houston in his directorial debut.

Behind “Casablanca,” and “Sabrina,” “The Maltese Falcon” is Bogie at his best in my estimation, but “The Big Sleep” from 1946, and “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” from 1948 are also high-water marks for the actor, and rank among his top six performances on my scales.

For me “African Queen” squeezes in between “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Big Sleep,” but there is no definitive order, and all are excellent films.

The morning-until-night marathon may not included all of Bogart’s great movies, but it does trace his career from being a character actor to developing into one of Hollywood’s enduring icons, even decades after his passing.

If you are interested in his career and have a DVR, I’d recommend taping the movies and watching them over the next few weeks to allow his singular style to soak in. Obviously the movies are dated – some more than others — but Bogart’s command of the screen is undeniable.

He’s a man’s man in these films with a man’s strengths and foibles, but most of the time you come away with a bit of empathy even for his vilest characters, no matter how dirty and rotten they are.