Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake roll into multiplexes this weekend, starring in Friends With Benefits, a film about friends who, you know, attempt romance-free intercourse. (Watch the movie's trailer.) What about the comedy has critics buzzing? Here, five talking points:
1. The stars' chemistry... or lack thereof
"Kunis and Timberlake have the rare chemistry and rapid-fire patter of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, if Hepburn and Tracy had conversations... about Olympic snowboarder Shaun White's pubic hair," says Amy Nicholson at Box Office Magazine. Come now, says Melissa Anderson in The Village Voice. Kunis and Timberlake have "zero chemistry," which is "crushing." They're "both foxy, loose, confident performers," and they should have been a "dream pairing."
2. The implausibly consistent product placement
"The only thing that distinguishes Friends with Benefits from every other movie out there" is that "all of its characters peck away on Sony Vaio computers, lovingly shown in close-up, rather than on Apple Macs," says Leah Rozen at The Wrap. What's the reason for this "seemingly serendipitous product placement"? Not so coincidentally, Screen Gems, the company releasing the film, falls under Sony Corp.
3. The awkward similarity to No Strings Attached
Friends With Benefits is "the thematic and infinitely superior double" of January's No Strings Attached, the Natalie Portman–Ashton Kutcher rom-com that also has a friends-who-sleep-together premise, says Ann Hornaday in The Washington Post. The Timberlake-Kunis version, agrees Angel Cohn at Television Without Pity, is a "massive upgrade."
4. The lack of surprises
Friends embark on a casual sexual relationship, and then they start to have real feelings for each other — this a "well-worn story," says Bill Goodykoontz in The Arizona Republic. "You can see everything coming, with no surprises," which isn't much fun.
5. Mila Kunis's head-turning talent
"Ms. Kunis looks itty-bitty enough to hang on a charm bracelet, but her energy is so invigorating and expansive and her presence so vibrant that she fills the screen," says Manohla Dargis at The New York Times. She's "fast proving that she's a gift that keeps giving to mainstream romantic comedy." Yes, she "certainly has momentum on her side, but her two most recognizable roles right now are as a screechy ditz and a languid dancer," in That '70s Show and Black Swan, say Clauder-Brodesser-Akner and Margaret Lyons in New York. "It's time to beef up that résumé."