It’s been nine years since Jay Baruchel played an adorably gawky college freshman on Judd Apatow’s late, lamented TV show Undeclared, but his appealing quality of eternal adolescence hasn’t eroded with age. His ability to project sheepish innocence serves him well in She’s Out Of My League, which essentially casts him as a younger variation on Steve Carell’s overgrown naïf in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. The comparison does the rest of this third-rate comedy no favors. Though Baruchel does his best to ground the film in some vague semblance of identifiable reality, he’s surrounded on all sides by human cartoons, each pushing bad advice or roping him into the next grotesque comic setpiece. It’s as if the filmmakers learned all the wrong lessons from Apatow’s films and applied them to a There’s Something About Mary clone, circa 2001.
Much like Carell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Baruchel’s character has settled comfortably and somewhat happily into a sexless life of exceedingly modest ambition; only the people around him think he’s a freak. While logging time with his obnoxious buddies (Nate Torrence, T.J. Miller, and Mike Vogel) as a TSA officer at a Pittsburgh airport, Baruchel has a pleasant encounter with Alice Eve, a conventionally pretty blonde party planner. When Eve takes a romantic interest in him, Baruchel lacks the confidence to even realize it until halfway through the first date, and his friends and family don’t help, either, constantly reminding him that… well… it’s right there in the title, isn’t it?
Facile though it is, She’s Out Of My League builds to the agreeable message that a person’s feeling of self-worth helps bridge the gap between a five on the attractiveness scale and a perfect 10, but it takes some grim comic business to get there. Baruchel has always thrown himself into embarrassing situations, but even he can’t be expected to survive the agonizing scene involving premature ejaculation, a dog, and his girlfriend’s parents, or another where he’s convinced against his better judgment to shave his pubes. Baruchel and Eve never shed that awkward first-date chemistry, which speaks less to their talents or the possibilities of mismatched romance than to a movie that forces them together like animals being mated in captivity.