January 24, 2017

Ivan Reitman on Ashton Kutcher, Natalie Portman and the sexy, funny “No Strings Attached” – EXCLUSIVE

By Sean O’Connell

Hollywoodnews.com: Judd Apatow and Kevin Smith may be carrying the baton for coarse, observational, sex-soaked comedy these days, but it was passed to them by Ivan Reitman.

And he wants it back.

Seriously, go back and watch Reitman’s early work, from “Cannibal Girls,” “Stripes” and “Meatballs,” and you’ll see the blueprint that Seth Rogen, Adam Sandler, Jason Segel, Jonah Hill and many more follow to this day. From there, Reitman moved on (and moved up) to “Ghostbusters,” “Legal Eagles,” “Kindergarten Cop” and “Dave.” A generation of classic comedies were born.

Now Reitman’s tackling a new generation, one that’s more frank with their sex talk (and more plugged in to the virtual community, where so much of that sex talk takes place).

“I don’t know if it’s kind of an evolving cynicism, that seems to be part of the world in general, or if it’s just the fact that so much of contemporary courtship takes place on small, electronic instruments,” Reitman told me when we sat down to discuss “No Strings Attached,” his new comedy starring Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman as friends with benefits.

“What once was a full commentary is now abbreviated. It tends to make everything a little quick and casual and non-intimate,” Reitman continued. “Texting and e-mailing … so much of what we do is writing short messages instead of talking.”

Reitman has watched the comedic audience evolve, as well, over the years, and he thinks honest and open sex talk is the norm, where years ago that might not have been the case.

“With each passing generation, I think … you know, parts of our vocabulary have become very broad. Let’s put it that way. And I think if you are going to do an honest contemporary movie without the language that is part of this film, I don’t think it would be honest or accurate,” Reitman said.

Or funny. And to ensure that “Strings” gets the laughs, Reitman surrounds his already amusing leads with hilarious support. Lake Bell plays a producer on the “Glee” rip off Kutcher writes for. Mindy Kalling of “The Office” steals scenes as Portman’s roommate. And in a particularly inspired bit of casting, Kevin Kline plays Kutcher’s father, a vainglorious, sex-crazed former TV star still living off his fame … and making his son’s life a living hell.

“I hadn’t worked with him since ‘Dave’ and I loved that experience. I think he did, as well. So when I saw the role … I thought he would be perfect. Especially as this sort of egotistical father figure,” Reitman told me. “I said, ‘It’s not a lot of scenes, but they are really funny scenes.’ And I also said, ‘Please.’ Sometimes that works.”

“No Strings Attached” opens in theaters on Friday, Jan. 21.

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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