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friends-with-benefits-movieThe success of “Black Swan” last year didn’t open the floodgates for more adventurous movies or even more psycho ballet flicks. Nope, instead it enabled the stars of that movie to go on and make two virtually identical rom coms released in the same year.

Natalie Portman teamed up with Ashton Kutcher earlier in 2011 to make “No Strings Attached,” a story about a couple who find that being friends with benefits is more complicated than they thought it would be. Now Natalie’s “Black Swan” co-star Mila Kunis and boy toy Justin Timberlake discover pretty much the same thing in a ??? movie opening this weekend. Isn’t that the actress version of wearing the same dress to the prom as your best friend?

Kunis and Timberlake are Jamie and Dylan, newly single twenty-somethings—she was dumped by her boyfriend Quincy (Andy Samberg), he by Kayla (Emma Stone)—who decide to have a relationship based entirely on sex. “It’s just a physical act,” says Dylan, “like playing tennis.” No strings attached as Ms. Portman might say. But like many before them (including Portman and Kutcher) they soon realize that getting physical also means getting personal.

Rom coms needn’t be as long winded as “Friends with Benefits.” At almost two hours the inevitable conclusion–I’m not telling you want happens but if you’ve ever seen a romantic comedy you already know–is WAY too long in coming. The set up on these things is pretty basic, and while filmmakers have to throw in some other story elements to keep things interesting “Friends with Benefits” stretches things a little too thin.

JT and Mila acquit themselves well enough, although they don’t exactly sear the screen with their chemistry. Too bad, they’re both likable, attractive performers but for me they didn’t seem to click, and for this story to really work sparks should be flying.

“Friends with Benefits” has some fun supporting performances–Woody Harrelson as a gay sports writer and Patricia Clarkson as Mila’s free spirited mom have fun with their roles–too bad the leads aren’t in on the fun as well.

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