It’s impossible to talk about “What’s Your Number” without examining the retrograde sexual politics at its heart. At issue is the old idea that a certain amount of sex partners can ruin a woman, a concept mature people stopped believing around the time of color TV. “What’s Your Number” is never quite sure whether it wants to mock or validate our obsession with women’s sexual history, and the result is a muddled mess.
Anna Faris stars in yet another one of those charming loser roles as a recently fired woman shocked to realize she’s had sex with a grand total of 19 men, nearly twice the national average. When a friend reveals that women who have slept with 20 or more men have trouble finding husbands, Faris enlists the help of her caddish neighbor (Chris Evans) to track down each ex to see if any of them were actually “the one.”
There are moments when “What’s Your Number” truly wants to be a bawdy 2011 sex comedy, with its boys and its girls both effing up a storm and everybody going home convinced that worrying about sexual purity is a pointless waste of time. At the same time, though, director Mark Mylod and writers Gabrielle Allan and Jennifer Crittendon can’t seem to stop humiliating Faris for being such a nasty slut, mocking her taste in men and making a running joke about the horrible hand jobs she gives. (To underline the double standard, Evans’ character is revealed to have slept with 300 women — but this isn’t a serious problem; he “just hasn’t met the right girl yet.”)
All this might not be such a big deal if the film were funny, but the exes rarely go beyond one-joke parodies and too many scenes confuse curses for punch lines. Faris has easy chemistry with both Evans and Ari Graynor as her sister, and the scenes of them just hanging out are much funnier than any of Faris’ madcap adventures. This isn’t a good movie, but it could make a fine midseason replacement sitcom.