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'How To Be Single' is a funny look at dating (R)

How To Be Single is an example of the dangerous pitfalls of judging a movie based only on the cast list, movie poster and early trailers. Going strictly by those elements, How To Be Single looks a chick flick that relies heavily on bawdy material to generate laughs.

This kind of assumption comes from the casting of Rebel Wilson, who tends to play comedy so over the top that the jokes often die from lack of oxygen. Then there’s Dakota Johnson, who showed all the appeal of a cactus enema in Fifty Shades of Gray. Toss in the hit and miss work of Leslie Mann and the mousy nature of Alison Brie and the signs pointed to a disaster.

How To Be Single actually is a smart, fun and sweet movie. Despite an all-female starring cast, it delivers its comments about relationships in such a full and inclusive manner that males will be pulled into the intertwined stories.

It starts with Alice (Johnson), a law firm employee who is coming out of a failed relationship. Her best friend, Robin (Wilson), decides to help her navigate the choppy waters of dating. The efforts don’t always work as Robin speeds through life. Alice is also dealing with her single sister, Meg (Mann), whose relationship with a younger man leads to a pregnancy.

The last piece of the puzzle is Lucy (Brie), a woman using logic, statistics and strategy to find the right mate. This intellectual approach keeps her from seeing the people around her who may really care for her.

Credit director Christian Ditter and writers Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein and Dana Fox with keeping this film at such a high level. There are plenty of humorous moments, but instead of just relying on the lowest common factors, each joke is a smart commentary on life and love.

Movies that tend to focus on one sex often treat those from the other sex as little more than props. How To Be Single is an equal opportunity film where the male characters are presented with depth. The best example is the single father played by Damon Wayans Jr. His character is dealing with a lot of emotional baggage when it comes to his daughter, and that adds another level to the story.

The weakest link is Brie. Her character always seems to be on the fringes. She’s part of the group, but her work is so far removed that her story never fully blends with the others.

How To Be Single is a wonderful surprise. It takes a high road in both comedy and story that makes it work on multiple levels. More comedies that focus on one gender should pay attention to this movie.

Cast: Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Alison Brie, Leslie Mann, Damon Wayans Jr.

Christian Ditter.

Screenwriters: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein, Dana Fox.

A New Line Cinema release. Running time: 110 minutes. Vulgar language, sexual content, adult themes. Playing at area theaters.