The gimmicky new romantic comedy What’s Your Number? takes place in a strange time warp where attitudes about sex and promiscuity change dramatically from scene to scene. In one sequence, members of a bridal party trade bawdy sex talk; in another, a future mogul expresses something approaching horror at the prospect that a woman in her 30s, like Anna Faris, might have had sex with more than two people. It turns out What’s Your Number? isn’t any smarter or savvier about sex and its collateral damage than the idiotic fake women’s-magazine study that provides its premise.
The perpetually underserved Faris stars as a recently fired Boston marketer who’s devastated to read a study in a women’s magazine stating that a woman who’s had more than 20 sexual partners has a 4 percent chance of getting married. Rather than dismissing the study as sexist, scare-mongering drivel, Faris decides to base her life around it. Since she has had exactly 20 lovers, Faris makes an extensive voyage through her sexual history to discover whether her future might lie in her distant and not-so-distant past. Chris Evans assumes Matthew McConaughey’s throne of regal shirtlessness as Faris’ neighbor, a charming, clothing-averse cad who agrees to help her track down her exes (he comes from a family of cops) in exchange for her letting him hide from his endless bevy of gorgeous one-night stands in her suspiciously enormous apartment.
There’s a smart, funny, observant comedy-drama to be made about the role our romantic pasts play in determining our futures, but director Mark Mylod and screenwriters Jennifer Crittenden (a Simpsons veteran who really should know better) and Gabrielle Allan are less interested in making that movie than in cycling Faris through a series of non-starting encounters with one-note-joke ex-flings, like the terminally British Martin Freeman or closeted gay Republican Anthony Mackie. Faris and Evans have frisky chemistry until a dire, endless third act separates them for the most arbitrary reasons. When What’s Your Number? works at all, it’s a testament to the charm and magnetism of the heroically unselfconscious Faris. She delivers a joyously unashamed performance in a flailing, sputtering rom-com that gives her and the rest of a supremely overqualified cast ample cause for embarrassment.