I don’t object to Ashton Kutcher in “No Strings Attached.” 

If anything, I’m of the opinion that the guy has more talent than most critics give him credit for – and he’s certainly winning and vulnerable in this new Ivan Reitman film.

No, my problem here – yet again – is with a romantic comedy that doesn’t know how to do comedy. Writer Elizabeth Meriwether is consistently humor-challenged, understanding the one-liner rhythm but not how to make them funny.

Kutcher plays Adam and Natalie Portman is Emma, and they meet young, then keep running across each other – without involvement – until they’re young adults. Then, after a sudden quickie encounter, they decide: They can be sex buddies – someone on call to hop in the sack with the other, with no emotional attachments.

Except that, after a while, Adam decides likes Emma. Emma, however, is too busy for a relationship – and also announces that she’s no good at the romantic parts; they just make her uncomfortable. She’d like someone who would just be there to service her when and where she wants it.

When Adam does start having feelings for Emma (and, worse, expressing them), she freezes up on him. And when he has the nerve to take her on an actual date and tell her he’s in love with her, forget it.

But there are few really funny lines, whether it’s the give-and-take between Adam and Emma, between Adam and his buddies and between Emma and hers.

“No Strings Attached” reaches for raunch to spark laughs and is only intermittently successful (a riff on Adam burning Emma a CD of songs that all have a theme keyed to her period is forced, for example). 

It’s apparently dirty enough to earn an R rating – but not dirty enough to be satisfyingly funny.

2 1/2 Stars (out of 5)

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