In subject matter alone, Definitely, Maybe is a lot like "How I Met Your Mother: The Movie." A cleverly structured story told by a father, in which he challenges his daughter to identify her mother from among three different love interests, would be more than enough to sustain a good date movie released just in time for Valentine's Day. Yet writer-director Adam Brooks isn't content with something so conventional. In fact, he's also managed to make Definitely, Maybe a period piece involving the presidency of Bill Clinton. Going well beyond expectations, Brooks uses the politician's tumultuous career as a metaphor for how the bloom comes off the rose in any courtship, making Clinton a narrative touchpoint -- from fresh-faced candidate to weary veteran strung up by his own semantics. It's an apt metaphor, as Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds) is divorcing his wife, meaning the story within the story will have an unhappy ending. If this sounds too ambitious or a bit of a bummer, that's underestimating Brooks' bright writing and finesse with his attractive and charming cast. The role of romantic leading man suits Reynolds just fine; in fact, the actor seems relieved to abandon the over-the-top schtick of his past roles. Whether Will's in the arms of April (Isla Fisher), Emily (Elizabeth Banks), or Summer (Rachel Weisz), the exchanges are lively and funny. What's more, Brooks does a decent job creating suspense over the identities of both his wife and his true love. Most viewers will pick up on where the clues point -- conventionally structured as those clues must be -- but that doesn't make the journey any less enjoyable. Fisher, Banks, and Weisz see to that, with a little help from a precocious Abigail Breslin as Will's daughter, and an acerbic Kevin Kline as a boozy college professor.
by Derek Armstrong review