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What Love Is

Love, Explained in a Series of Lackluster Lectures

Mars Callahan has a lot to say about love. Callahan, whose Poolhall Junkies was a passably entertaining glimpse into the lives of hustlers searching for some worldly purpose, has rarely met a cliché he didn’t work into a script, and his latest meditation on life and romance is full of them. There are some interesting ideas bandied about in What Love Is, crudely adorned with graphic sex fantasies and testosterone-fueled gusto, but when all is said (and never done), we are left with the kind of trite, philosophical musings that have inspired so many sitcoms.

The premise is simple. Tom (Cuba Gooding Jr.) comes home one Valentine’s Day evening to discover that his would-be fiancée has written him a Dear John letter and packed her bags. On cue, his four buddies enter stage right and proceed to school him with their half-baked notions about romance. Sal (Matthew Lillard) is the womanizer with a heart of gold that he hides away lest it be broken, again; George (Sean Astin) is the unabashed romantic who simply “loves women”; Ken (Callahan) is married, and has already discovered the secrets of happiness; and Wayne (Andrew Daly) is gay.

All of them have very different ideas about what love is and should be, and all are granted the stage to explain their world-views, which are neatly summed up in a series of long (and sometimes embarrassing) lectures. Sal can’t stomach the idea that Wayne has chosen men over the pleasures of the opposite sex; Wayne patiently explains that his sexuality was never a choice at all, while George searches the pantry for organic snacks and a woman willing to tolerate his beer gut. A group of marauding bachelorettes, led by Anne Heche and Gina Gershon, arrive to offer the female perspective, and Tom quietly loses his mind in the corner.

Is it interesting? Sometimes. Is it too wordy for its own good, and loaded with cringe-inducing “truths” about love and the best ways to perform oral sex? Absolutely. What Love Is never really does figure it out, but Callahan throws out so many of his best guesses that a couple stick. Whether or not you care to hear them really depends on how much of your time you’re willing to waste.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars