Mostly thanks to less toilet humor than many of its contemporaries, “The Other Woman” is a funny high-concept movie with some memorable moments from Leslie Mann and even Kate Upton, making for an entertaining little revenge fantasy about making a man pay for his unscrupulous lifestyle. Does it all work? Absolutely not. Yet, “The Other Woman” takes a fairly obvious concept and turns it into a likable buddy flick that doesn’t outstay its welcome. Even while getting one-upped by Mann, Cameron Diaz still has some funny scenes of her own and “The Other Woman” ends up overcoming its flaws to deliver a crowd-pleaser that should live up to audience expectations.
There have been plenty of comedies centering on infidelity, but “The Other Woman” wisely imagines a world where the women being cheated on are more allies than competitors. While high-profile New York lawyer Carly (Diaz) is disappointed when her new man Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) turns out to be much less than Prince Charming, her jaded world view allows her to just turn the page and move on with her life. For Carly, meeting a good-looking rich guy who turns out to be a player is nothing new, sending her back to hiding in her chic Manhattan office after yet another dating disaster.
Then there’s Mark’s wife Kate (Leslie Mann), who isn’t exactly the type of woman built to handle adversity. While Carly is capable of being cold and realistic, Kate is a ditzy disaster complete with crying spells, paralyzing naiveté and the tendency to drink herself completely under the table instead of confronting the situation. Put them together and you have a classic mismatch couple that needs each other. But while Carly would like to follow the philosophy that selfish people live longer, as her pseudo-prophetic assistant (Nicki Minaj) insists, she instead finds herself compelled to help Kate out of her messy situation. Is it best for Kate to just confront Mark and get it over with? That would be one way to do it, yet it would pale in comparison to the fun of slowly exacting vengeance.
With Kate and Carly on the prowl, Mark continues to slide through life like he thinks he’s in a Ralph Lauren commercial. As Mark, Coster-Waldau is perfectly typecast as the smooth operator who can fake his way to being considered a nice guy with the best of them, though he’s really just looking to continue adding mistresses to the pile. When Kate and Carly find out that he’s added the young and beautiful Amber (Kate Upton) to the mix, something has to give and soon Mark has three scorned women nipping at his heels.
More than anything, though, “The Other Woman” is a chance for Mann to shine as one of the best mainstream comedy actresses around. While her character Kate could have just been an annoying mess, and is to some extent, she also comes off as an unquestionably kind-hearted woman who Carly simply can’t ignore. In many scenes, “The Other Woman” works simply because Mann makes Kate seem like she’s a ticking time bomb always on the edge of some sort of complete collapse, making her funny and endearing at the same time.
Surprisingly, many of the best moments also come from Upton’s character, who is convincing as a flighty bombshell who works into the plot without feeling like a brainstorming session add-in. Writer Melissa Stack and director Nick Cassavetes limit Upton’s screen time, but the movie comes together in many ways once she helps to create the trifecta.
Where it doesn’t work so well is when we get to the bathroom gags. Once Jim Carrey gave Jeff Daniels ex-lax in “Dumb and Dumber,” the ex-lax joke probably could have been retired, but here it finds an ignoble return when our three ladies start ganging up on poor Mark. Though they have plenty of creativity when it comes to snooping around and setting up their traps, they suddenly lose that creativity when they have to actually inflict the pain. Even if it’s a cheap thrill to see Mark losing his hair and having to buy fresh pants from restaurant workers, these girls probably deserved a little more, and resorting to the easy gags ends up feeling lazy and obvious.
Of course, “The Other Woman” is also one of those movies in which logic is best left at the opening credits, but that has long been a tradition for high-concept Hollywood buddy comedies. This is the type of movie where a character just happens to have a good-looking brother with a place in the Hamptons right down the street from where some spying needs to take place. Need to throw another character out a second-story window without any ramifications whatsoever? Not a problem. But more than anything, “The Other Woman” understands exactly what it is and trusts the script and actors to be funny without having to go too far over the top. Take out the ex-lax scene and you end up with uplifting, light entertainment that is just about the perfect antidote for unoriginal comedies that insist on pushing the gross-out dial the furthest.