Netflix Movie Review: Love, Guaranteed (2020)

Like a recipe for sugar cookies that you follow and enjoy, despite finding it in every single cookbook you come across, the ingredients for contemporary romantic comedies have become so easily identifiable that even those who don't follow the genre very closely can break down each element as if separating the liquids from the powders.

Of course, this isn't always a bad thing. Much like cookies, there's nothing like a delectable dessert-like rom-com to bring a smile to your face. Yet sometimes what we're left with feels less like an overall confection than it does just a handful of ingredients that taste great individually but don't work all that well together. And when it comes to Netflix's latest comedy about love, this is precisely what happened.  
Looking to stack the deck with an adorably daffy rom-com premise – partially conceived by its affable leading lady Rachael Leigh Cook – and a script penned by genre veterans Hilary Galanoy and Elizabeth Hackett, the film revolves around a man (played by Damon Wayans Jr.) who sues his online dating service because it hasn't made good on its promise to deliver “Love, Guaranteed.”

Having failed to make a romantic connection in nearly a thousand dates, which would've left most men physically and emotionally exhausted as well as incredibly broke, Wayans Jr.'s inexplicably independently wealthy physical therapist Nick hires Cook's idealistic civil litigator to take on the dating service run by Heather Graham's clueless lifestyle guru.

Even without the witty repartee of a sparkling legal comedy like “Adam's Rib,” fueled by Wayans Jr. and Cook's genuinely charming chemistry, these elements alone could've easily led to a fun, if predictably formulaic, Hallmark Channel level rom-com. But in "Love, Guaranteed," Galanoy, Hackett, and, as evidenced by the production notes, Cook and director Mark Steven Johnson, kept filling the pot with new ideas.

And while one – based on a true incident in Cook's life where she became so disturbed by the miscarriage of justice in “The Fugitive” as a young girl that she had to stop watching – is introduced in the film to hilarious effect (but then never develops into anything more), another idea from Johnson wears on viewers' nerves right away.

Similar to the way that on TV's “Stumptown,” actress Cobie Smulders' character Dex drives an old car with a broken tape deck that plays the same '80s cassette over and over again, in “Love, Guaranteed,” Cook's Susan drives an old orange rust bucket that spontaneously plays Tiffany's “I Think We're Alone Now” repeatedly at will. As a woman roughly Cook's age in real life who also remembers Tiffany in the '80s, this sounds comically winning in theory but by the time we watch Cook have an over-the-top romantic breakdown in the car to Tiffany's song, we have long been ready to hit the mute button whenever we hear its opening notes.

From not understanding that people lie on their online profiles to being thoroughly unfamiliar with most dating behavior in the 21st century, as warm and wonderful as Cook is, Susan feels almost less real than Nick's physical therapist who's able to blow tens of thousand dollars on bad dates and also somehow works for free by donating his time. Still, a much better character than her stereotypical co-workers (a flirtatious gay guy and a generic gal pal), besides her scenes with Wayans Jr., Cook's best moments are the ones that her character shares with her pregnant sister who lives in the condo next door.

Less successful than last year's similarly gimmicky but much sweeter Netflix rom-com “Falling Inn Love” penned by Galanoy and Hackett, this film doesn't work nearly as well as a majority of the made-for-TV rom-coms crafted with assembly-line efficiency on The Hallmark Channel, including those that have starred “Love” producer and actress Cook.

Counting at least three toilet references in the first act alone, which, although never explicitly gross just don't really go with the otherwise warm, sophisticated world those behind-the-scenes are trying to create, “Love, Guaranteed,” is never quite certain just what kind of romantic comedy it truly wants to be.

Established early on, one recurring gag in the movie is that Nick – who has weirdly kept diligent notes on every single date that went wrong – has named each bad match he's endured as though they're rejected episodes of TV's “Friends.” And while Susan might be “the one I didn't see coming,” according to Nick, unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the film. 

Following the recipe we know by heart to a “T” before trying to spice things up by sprinkling in numerous other ingredients that just don't blend well together, if this movie were a date, I'd probably dub it, “the one I wish I would've fallen more in like with (but really should've been rewritten).” 

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