Who can lift the American screen comedy from a vast muck of sniggery boner gags and crap-pop bricolage? I'm pulling for Ryan Reynolds, the stud comic whose gouging inflection and tenuous arrogance have piloted such disarming fare as Just Friends and Definitely, Maybe. Marcos Siega's Chaos Theory finds our man playing an uptight lecture-circuit efficiency expert, reasonably happily married (to Emily Mortimer) with a kid, when one blip in his immaculate schedule upends him down a steep tumble of coincidence and into the undiscovered world beyond his daily planner. From over-familiar beginnings—a wry bad-boy bachelor best friend whose idea of a good time is (head-slap) to "go to Rascals and play some blackjack"—the plot off-roads into almost free-associative happenstance. Reynolds, called to 180 from anal nebbish to feral beast, is beautifully committed, but he gets no help on the other side of the camera. The actors have to vie for attention with a bum-rushing sound track of emotionally instructive, anemic mope music and a director/cinematographer duo that seems more invested in creating outstandingly pretty setups that seem like a pitch for commercial work (the lighting is plush, the stained-teak Crate & Barrel interiors just so) rather than serving the scene or condescending to anything so basic as hustling for laffs.
Reynolds resists Chaos.
Opens at Guild 45, Fri., April 11. Rated PG-13. 86 minutes.