Blu-ray Review: Friends With Benefits

STUDIO: Sony | DIRECTOR: Will Gluck | CAST: Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman, Richard Jenkins, Woody Harrelson, Andy Samberg, Emma Stone
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 12/2/2011 | PRICE: DVD $30.99, Blu-ray $35.99, Blu-ray/DVD Combo $40.99
BONUSES: commentary, deleted scenes, outtakes; Blu-ray adds featurettes, pop-up trivia track
SPECS: R | 109 min. | Romantic comedy | 2.40:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1/Dolby Digital 5.1 | English, Spanish, French, Chinese and Korean subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Friends With Benefits takes a pair of attractive young stars and puts them into the sexy romantic comedy scenario of the moment, that of guy and girl buddies sharing sexual intimacies while attempting to avoid any romantic entanglements. While it may be the same story we saw in No Strings Attached, this year’s other non-committal sex–themed romantic comedy movie, Friends With Benefits definitely offers a hipper and funnier take on the material.

Friends With BenefitsMuch of that is due to titular benefiting friends Justin Timberlake (Bad Teacher) and Mila Kunis (Black Swan): he a West Coast-based Internet publisher who moves to New York for a big job; she the executive headhunter who lures him to Gotham. They ain’t Gable and Lombard, but Timberlake and Kunis definitely click together on screen, particularly when the banter is breezy.

The two deliver their dialog with snap and poise, presumably at the behest of director Will Gluck (Easy A), who puts the energy out front so that only so much thought can be given to the relatively standard story, which fills the rom-com template.

Gluck and his team also serve up energetic and colorful New York City backdrops, which are especially gorgeous on Blu-ray’s high-definition.

The film also is populated with such solid, familiar supporting players as Jenna Elfman (Love Hurts), Richard Jenkins (Eat Pray Love), Woody Harrelson (The Messenger) and, as Kunis’s mother, Patricia Clarkson (Shutter Island ), who’s fast becoming this generation’s Thelma Ritter.

Kunis and Timberlake dive into their handful of lengthy sex are scenes, which are enthusiastic and fun without being embarrassing — a feat that is probably harder to pull off than it seems. The physically intimate moments actually work better than the emotional ones that come around when real feelings enter the picture during the film’s final half-hour.

Kicking off the bonus features on the Blu-ray is a commentary track with Gluck, Timberlake and a surprisingly soft-spoken Kunis. It’s not all that engaging, as the three frequently get distracted by one another and joke around more than they discuss what’s happening on the screen.

More fun is the outtakes reel (yes, they all had a good time during the shoot) and a Blu-ray exclusive featurette revealing how a lively sequence involving a flash mob was conceived and choreographed.

There are also 10 deleted scenes accompanied by an optional commentary by Gluck, who offers that most of the excised material “distracted from the emotion” of the film. A little later, he admits that he has “a tendency to put scenes in places where they don’t belong.” Whether they were situated poorly or not, none of the the deleteds are particularly memorable, though the one that finds Timberlake walking past a theater that’s mounting Ferris Bueller: The Musical definitely merits a smile.

 

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.