Romantic comedies have changed a bit since their late nineties/early two thousands heyday. Gone are the days of Julia Roberts being, "just a girl, in front of a boy, asking him to love her." It seems somewhere around 2005, Hollywood finally got the message and decided unrealistic, overly romantic gestures like stopping the girl at the airport, or stopping her from marrying the wrong guy at the altar was just a tad too much. Thus we get something like The Perfect Match, a movie sans the final act clichés but still clinging to old attitudes about men and women.
Charlie (Jenkins) is just not the dating type. Living large as a successful music agent and budding photographer, Charlie spends his days meeting up with, and quickly discarding a bevy of attractive women. His friends; a regular cabal of walking stock-characters, tell him he should settle down lest he spend his life alone. Then he meets Karen (Hawk) a women who wants to escape from the long-term relationship feedback loop. "I just want something without any attachments," she says to Charlie as the two get to know each other. Thus what starts as a simple arrangement between two young, attractive people, turns into something more complicated.
Despite some welcomed changes to the genre, The Perfect Match is beat by beat, very beholden to a comedic style that hasn't been in vogue since the nineties. Charlie and his friends Victor (Riley) and Rick (Faison) joke around about how unreasonable, shrewish and/or costly their women are while falling into sitcom dad situations that could easily be avoided if they communicated better. Charlie's sister Sherry (Patton) takes no time explaining to the audience that she's a therapist and delves into Charlie's inner thoughts before we even have the time to get to know him. The first act is so paint by numbers that there's actually something kind of appealing to the menagerie of dated gender role jokes. It's like peering into the psyche of a Bill Burr fan or the Facebook feed of a college sophomore; it's all "women be like _______" jokes.
The characterizations vary not just actor to actor but scene to scene. One minute Robert Christopher Riley's character is noticeably panicked about the cost of his wedding to his fiancée Ginger (London). The next moment he's completely zen without much resolution. Cassie Ventura leans into the testy Latina stereotype which surprisingly is the most consistent and interesting supporting character in the film. Faison brings much needed levity whenever he's on screen but he, along with everyone else is still just reading their lines, collecting a paycheck and going home.
The exact same thing can be said about the main romance, which lacks everything but the bare cliché. Largely established with a coiling array of lovemaking scenes set to R&B music, Jenkins and Hawk seem completely at odds with each other. The chemistry was wholly absent and provides no warmth the audience can cling to. When our smitten hero comes face to face with the perfunctory third act romantic misunderstanding, his reaction is complete overkill, given the fact that he barely knows Karen.
In-spite of all it's various faults, I cannot deny this movie will be exactly what many are looking for. It's a de-fanged romantic comedy with a salient moral about not being a scrub. It provides some fun eye-candy for both sexes and it wasn't directed terribly. In-fact I would argue this kind of material is beneath director Bille Woodruff who has a way with composition and ensemble blocking. It's not Love & Basketball (2000), heck it's not even Think Like a Man (2012) but at least it's heart is in the right place.