Even halfway through this film, it’s hard to believe that a premise and cast this good could be so dull. You keep rooting for the idea, a contemporary update of Nine to Five, with bad husband Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau from Game of Thrones) in the place of the great Dabney Coleman as a corrupt, sexist boss. Add to that a trio of nicely mismatched protagonists who ought to represent a cross section of contemporary sensibility. There’s Cameron Diaz, the raunchy professional wise gal from Bad Teacher, as a lawyer in love; she’s a tough yet wounded soul who lets herself believe in a too-handsome and thoughtful man (always a wrong in romantic comedies). She actually dresses up sexy and goes to his Connecticut home only to meet, surprise, the scumbag’s wife, a sweet ditz played by Leslie Mann, conjuring all the automatic associations to the Judd Apatow universe. (She not only starred in his best comedies but also married him in real life.) Traumatized, the two cheated upon go after faithless Mark only to discover a third cheatee, appropriately named Amber and played by swimsuit model Kate Upton.
Maybe at this point you’re thinking that the setup took too long and seemed a little padded, but you’re also rubbing your hands together, preparing for the gross-out takedown of the misogynist swine. But don’t think, because this film doesn’t employ any brains for you. Instead, The Other Woman bogs itself down in aimless set pieces; it gives us jokes about getting drunk, or pooping, or dogs pooping, or nattering verbal drunken fights that only make its female victims seem dumb. It goes so bad that when the payback finally arrives, the filmmakers need to resort to slapstick to make the pain feel funny and real.
To their credit, Diaz and Mann try to bring some kind of complexity to their characters, and Mann seems to be trance-channeling Gracie Allen. It may be a truism that poop jokes and slapstick really are funny, but this should have been smart, as well. If love is a battlefield, this is a fender bender.