For a movie that seems like something stolen directly from The Hallmark Channel’s production room (right down to the casting of Hallmark mainstay Rachel Leigh Cook), Netflix’s new cheeseball rom-com Love, Guaranteed actually has a few things going for it (not the least of which is, in fact, Cook). Yes, it’s corny and predictable, and certain plot points may want to make you throw a shoe at your television, but in a world where beggars are most definitely not allowed to be choosers, you could do much, much worse.
Cook stars as Susan, a crusading Seattle attorney who’s always looking for ways to help “the little guy”. Of course, this does nothing whatsoever to pay the bills (as many of her cases are taken pro bono), but she’s content in the fact that she’s doing good work. Her life gets tossed upside down, however, when hunky bachelor Nick (Damon Wayans Jr.) wanders into her office and announces that he wants to sue an online dating site for false advertising. The site’s fine print, it seems, promises that clients will find love in less than 1,000 dates… but he’s still single after 986 (and, yes, that’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner dates every day for almost three years).
While the cynic in us (and in Susan) might laugh this off as an opportunistic scam on Nick’s part, eventually his earnestness wins the day, and she decides to take the case. Just like that, Love, Guaranteed is off and running, generously peppered with almost every rom-com trope imaginable as we take a pleasant little stroll toward the inevitable finish line. Hearts melt, quirky supporting characters provide wisdom and a much-needed kick in the pants for our protagonist, and sun-dappled skyline vistas dominate the backgrounds.
Director Mark Steven Johnson, who helmed the above-average Kristen Bell-starrer When in Rome in 2010, does seem to have put more than a passing thought and a nominal time commitment into the film, coaxing solid performances from the cast and keeping things humming along at a comfortable pace. And the script by long-time writing partners Elizabeth Hackett and Hilary Galanoy (Falling Inn Love) has enough cutie-pie comic moments that you’ll chuckle politely to yourself far more than you’ll roll your eyes.
As for Cook and Wayans, they have consistently proven their comedic timing and charm throughout their careers, and it’s on full display here, too, helping elevate the film (even if it’s only this much) from where it could have landed in less-seasoned hands. Kudos also to supporting players Sean Amsing and Lisa Durupt, who hit a home run as Susan’s office mates and practically steal Love, Guaranteed right out from under everyone else.
There’s no question the film isn’t high art, nor does it pretend to be. For what it is, though—a Hallmark Movie that got called up to the majors—it’s as comfy as a cozy ol’ banket on a crisp fall day, and you might just find it to be worth an hour and a half of your time. But, heck, there’s no guarantee.