The problem with juggling cliches, however consciously, is that they’re still cliches. And the problem with setting the bar high is that, well, the bar is high.
Writer-director-star Lake Bell struggles with both those problems in “I Do ... Until I Don’t,” her romantic comedy followup to 2013’s effervescent “In a World ...” (she obviously has a thing for ellipses).
Her feminist directorial debut, “World ...” revolved around a woman trying to succeed at a job (movie trailer voice-overs) overwhelmingly performed by men — it was charmingly specific and Bell’s character was kooky and endearing.
“I Do ... Until I Don’t” is anything but specific. It’s about the trials and joys of marriage — is that broad enough for you? And while it also may be endearing, it’s a common sort of endearing: Uplifting, affirming, hugs for everyone.
The set-up is this: A divorced British documentary filmmaker named Vivian (Dolly Wells) has come to Florida, which apparently has a high divorce rate, to make a film that will show marriage is a sham and all unions are doomed to failure. She recruits three couples to follow as examples and then sets out to undermine their love lives.
The couples are a pair of snarky seniors (Mary Steenburgen and Paul Reiser) who snipe at each other, which of course means they’re actually deeply close; a hippie-dippie couple (Amber Heard and Wyatt Cenac) living in an “open relationship”; and a white-bread, economically strapped middle-class duo (Bell and Ed Helms) struggling with whether to have a child. Through lazy plotting, Heard’s and Bell’s characters are sisters.
Hijinks ensue as Vivian plots to interfere in all three marriages. And love conquers all as the film pleasantly-if-predictably pinballs its way toward an ending as unreservedly goopy as any in recent memory. None of it is painful, the performances are all solid, but still ...
Bell herself wed in 2013 and this film undoubtedly celebrates her belief in the institution. Fine, swell. But she’s too talented for this. Now it’s time to move on.
Tom Long is a longtime culture critic.
‘I Do ... Until I Don’t’
Rated R for sexual material and language
Running time: 103 minutes