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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: No Strings Attached

May 14th, 2011

No Strings Attached - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack

No Strings Attached came out right when Natalie Portman's Oscar buzz for Black Swan was reaching its peak. To have an Oscar-nominated actress in the lead could only help matters. On the other hand, Ashton Kutcher has been acting in movies for a decade and not once, not once, have any of his films earned overall positive reviews. When these two forces combine, what is the result?

The Movie

We first meet Adam and Emma when they are kids at camp fifteen years ago. Ten years later, they reunite at a college frat party where Adam is attending and Emma is invited to by another friend. A few years after that they reunite again, this time at a open market. Both times they go their separate ways.

Flash forward to present day and Adam is now an assistant on a cheesy TV show, but he's looking to become a writer. His father, Alvin, a famous actor, is willing to help his career, but Adam wants to make it on his own merits. His world is about to be shaken when he learns his father is dating his ex-girlfriend, Vanessa. Devastated, he goes to a bar with his friends, gets drunk, and phones every women on his cell phone looking to hook up. When he wakes up, he's naked on a couch in a stranger's apartment. He learns it's Emma's place and she was one of the people he drunk dialed the night before. Despite the fact that he woke up naked, nothing happened between the two of them. However, they decide, now that he's sober, that it would be okay to have sex. And again later on. And again. But whatever they do, they are not dating, because Emma doesn't want to be in a relationship.

At first Adam is fine with this, but he quickly wants the relationship to evolve into something more. Emma, on the other hand, is petrified of being in a relationship. As the film continues, however, the line between 'Friends with Benefits' and 'In a Relationship' gets blurred. And of course there will be other obstacles in their path.

If you've seen one romantic comedy, you know that is coming. In fact, since this is a relationship advice romantic comedy, it's even more predictable than usual. You'll lose track of the number of scenes where either Adam or Emma are with a group of friends who are giving them advice, and these will remind you of countless other scenes in similar movies.

That said, it is an extremely well made and the two leads do have enough chemistry to carry the movie. The wide selection of supporting characters can tip the scale on the quirky side at times, which makes the film feel manufactured rather than genuine. It also tries too hard to be too cute at times, but in balance it still works. The film's biggest faults are common throughout the genre, while its strengths help it rise above the pack.

The Extras

The extras are led by an audio commentary track with Ivan Reitman, which lacks energy. Sex Friends: Getting Together is a 21-minute making of featurette with the usual mix of talking heads, behind-the-scenes footage, and clips from the movie. Inside the Sassy Halls of Secret High is an 11-minute featurette on the TV show within the movie. There are 8 deleted scenes, including a couple from a subplot that was cut entirely out of the movie.

As for Blu-ray exclusives, there's a 9-minute featurette on Modern Love: The Dos and Don'ts. It is also BD-Live enabled with three additional deleted scenes.

Looking in at the tech specs, the film's video transfer is surprisingly good. It's a dialogue driven comedy, so there's not a lot of visual flash, but everything looks great. There's a high level of detail, great colors, deep blacks, sharp contrast, etc. The audio is not as impressive with the surround sound speakers and the bass being mostly ignored. That said, the dialogue is clear and we get enough directional effects / environmental noise to not feel boring.

Finally, when it comes to the price, the Blu-ray costs just 33% more than the DVD, and it includes the DVD and a digital copy. With all you get, this is clearly the better deal.

The Verdict

No Strings Attached offers two twists to the standard romantic comedy plot, both of which are revealed in the trailer. (Their relationship starts as just sex and it's the guy that becomes emotionally attached first.) However, while the film lacks surprises, it makes up for it with good chemistry between the two leads and plenty of humor. Enough works that it is worth checking out for most people, picking up for fans of the genre. Meanwhile, the Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack is a better deal over just the DVD.

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Filed under: Video Review, Black Swan, No Strings Attached