How Do You Know

Rated PG-13 121 minutes 2010

James L. Brooks is one of the few TV sitcom writers (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi) who's earned his bona fides as a filmmaker (Terms of Endearment, As Good as It Gets), mainly by counterbalancing the wit of his small-screen work with credible drama. This sixth feature recycles the character dynamic of his 1987 hit Broadcast News: a driven career woman (Reese Witherspoon as a U.S. Olympic softball player) tries to choose between a shallow but charming success (Owen Wilson as a Washington Nationals baseball star) and a smart nebbish who really understands her (Paul Rudd as a financial analyst charged with securities fraud). The result is highly entertaining but hardly ranks with the director's best work; a dramatic subplot involving the money guy and his corrupt father (a disengaged Jack Nicholson) never gains traction, and the climactic soliloquy, in which Rudd compares life to a can of Play-Doh, shows how easily Brooks's snappy dialogue can turn painfully glib. (116 min.)

Film Credits

Official Site: howdoyouknow-movie.com

Director: James L. Brooks

Producer: James L. Brooks, Paula Weinstein, Laurence Mark, Julie Ansell, John D. Schofield and Richard Sakai

Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, Jack Nicholson, Kathryn Hahn, Mark Linn-Baker, Lenny Venito, Molly Price, Ron McLarty, Shelley Conn, Domenick Lombardozzi, Teyonah Parris and Tony Shalhoub

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