By Betsy Bozdech,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Teen-friendly romcom about love's ups and downs.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Characters are all flawed but very human, with mostly good intentions. Will and Maya's mom clearly care for her very much and want to protect her from their problems. One character cheats on another; another kisses someone when he's dating someone else. Some pressure for a journalist character to compromise her ethics. Lots of discussion of politics and ideals, particularly concerning Bill Clinton's presidency.
Violence & Scariness
Some sharp words exchanged in a couple of scenes. Will breaks a bottle in anger.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Several scenes of passionate kissing, some of which take place in bed (though characters are never naked). Regular discussion of sex/sex life (or lack thereof); Will's roommate talks about his one-night stand, and Will mentions the possibility of a threesome or foursome at one point (prompting Maya to ask what that is). Characters cheat/stray. Sections from a character's college diary suggest a lesbian fling. TV footage from the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Early scenes show parents of grade schoolers upset because their kids have gotten a sex-ed lesson; this results in the kids (particularly Maya) talking about "penises" and "vaginas" and "thrusting" and asking questions about their parents' sex lives.
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Pretty mild; infrequent use of words like "ass," "bitch," and "hell." "S--t" is used a handful of times in one scene.
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Products & Purchases
Brief appearances by Corona beer, Pepsi, NYC hotels and other landmarks. Specific cigarette brands are mentioned, and there's a quick reference to Quaker Oats/Froot Loops, but the biggest "brand" is Bill Clinton and the Democratic party.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adult characters drink beer, wine, and liquor, mostly in social settings. A few scenes in which Will is obviously drunk (motivated by frustration over where he's at in life). Will and April both smoke in the early-'90s scenes (though present-day Will has quit and tells Maya that he was stupid to have ever smoked); in one scene, they bet each other whose cigarette will burn faster -- the ensuing "race" makes smoking seem glamorous and almost romantic. Some minor smoking by other characters.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this thoughtful romantic comedy about flawed adult characters isn't as clear-cut as many other Hollywood "chick flicks." For that reason, it's likely to resonate more with adults than teens and tweens who haven't gone through complicated relationships yet. Still, the content isn't inappropriate for teens: There's some passionate kissing and a good bit of discussion about sex (including implications of a lesbian college fling and passing mention of a threesome), but nothing graphic; language is mostly on the mild side ("s--t" is only used in one scene, though it carries a lot of weight when it is used); and there's no violence. Several scenes do feature social drinking (a few also show Will drunk) and smoking; one sequence in particular makes sharing a cigarette break seem like a romantic, intimate experience. Divorce is also an issue here; the main character's tween daughter is upset by her parents' impending split and wants them to reconcile.
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What's the Story?
On the brink of divorce, ad exec William Hayes (Ryan Reynolds) is put on the spot by his young daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin) when she demands to know how he and her mom fell in love (clearly, she's hoping that if he's reminded, they'll reconcile). He agrees to tell the story but turns it into a mystery, adding in details of his two other serious romances and changing names so Maya won't know which one's her mom. The action then flashes back to 1992, with eager young Will moving to New York City to volunteer for Bill Clinton's presidential campaign while maintaining a long-distance relationship with college sweetheart Emily (Elizabeth Banks). He meets pert fellow volunteer April (Isla Fisher) and sophisticated aspiring writer Summer (Rachel Weisz) early on, but has no idea how entangled he'll end up getting with both. As the '90s unfold, so does Will's love life, with the ups and downs keeping Maya -- and viewers -- guessing.
Is It Any Good?
It's a refreshing change of pace from run-of-the-mill Hollywood romantic comedies, where it's all-too-often clear which characters will end up together from the order of their names in the credits. While it's certainly possible to guess which of the three women Will will end up with, the movie doesn't make it a foregone conclusion -- as in life, love itself isn't always enough, and bad timing has a way of screwing things up. That said, the movie doesn't have the same kind of sparkling charm of a film like Love Actually or the appealing frankness of one like About a Boy; it prompts more smiles than outright laughs (many of the latter are thanks to the '90s "nostalgia" that permeates the film), and the ending ultimately seems a little bit pat -- though some of the scenes leading up to it are sentimental enough for the sappiest romantic.
Reynolds is a pleasant surprise as Will; better known for his snarkiness than his heart, the actor proves he has more than witty wisecracks up his sleeve, coming off as a very believable guy who wants to find real love but keeps getting it wrong. Breslin, as always, is bright eyed and cute as a button -- she doesn't have as much to do here as she did in Little Miss Sunshine, but she makes the most of her story-driving role. The three leading ladies are also appealing -- Banks and Fisher have had more broadly comic roles in mainstream movies before, so it's nice to see them getting a chance to do some more subtle work. All in all, Definitely, Maybe is well-executed charming, if not a classic, and it should warm the cockles of any chick flick-lover's heart.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about what makes this movie different from other romantic comedies. Does it seem more realistic than others in the genre? Why or why not? How do you usually know which characters will end up together? Do those "rules" apply here? What messages is the movie sending about love, romance, and commitment? Do you think there's one "right" person for everyone? Do you think the movie is saying that? Families can also discuss how smoking is portrayed in the movie. What role does it play in Will and April's relationship? Does that make it seem positive or negative?
- In theaters: February 14, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: June 23, 2008
- Cast: Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher, Ryan Reynolds
- Director: Adam Brooks
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sexual content, including some frank dialogue, language and smoking
- Last updated: April 5, 2023
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