‘The Other Woman’ is also a caricature

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First Posted: 4/28/2014

I should hate “The Other Woman” more than I do. Director Nick Cassavetes and writer Melissa Stack certainly try their best to aggravate us. This pandering female empowerment comedy cuts its wobbly “sisters are doing it for themselves” objectives with stupidity. Think laxative-induced humor and Sonny Crockett decking Jaime Lannister.

But it also gives us Leslie Mann, who single-handedly makes “The Other Woman” occasionally pleasant. If she weren’t so prominently featured, I would still be washing the movie’s stink from my hair.

Mann’s character, Kate, is not the only other woman. Her handsome husband, entrepreneur Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), is seeing single New York City attorney Carly (Cameron Diaz), who is falling hard. When Mark blows off plans to meet Carly’s father, she puts on a sexy costume and visits Mark at his lavish Connecticut spread. Instead, Kate opens the door.

With that awkward encounter, the lives of both women change. Kate tracks Carly down to her office and quickly devolves into a sobbing mess. Carly, who has the warmth of a meat locker, gradually turns into a reluctant sounding board for Kate, whose carefully composed suburban world is shattered.

Carly’s involvement intensifies when Kate discovers that Mark, basically a kinder, gentler version of Michael Fassbender’s sex addict from “Shame,” is sleeping with another woman: 22-year-old Amber (“Sports Illustrated” swimsuit model Kate Upton). The two other women quickly recruit the new other woman to exact revenge on Mark.

Mark, who also possesses Bernie Madoff’s business ethics, is a cartoon. Fine. In theory, “The Other Woman” is a girls’ night out, a lark to elicit laughs and remind women they can dish it out. But, whoa boy, the price is high: Stack and Cassavetes (“The Notebook”) can’t entertain us without shoehorning comedic elements that halve the movie’s IQ.

That’s a perilous approach for a movie seeking to portray women taking control of their lives, especially since the talented Diaz and Mann are around. Yet, the stupid keeps increasing as Kate brings along a pony-sized Dalmatian and Nicki Minaj soullessly explains why cheating rocks and Mark’s breakfast smoothie gets spiked with estrogen. And under Stack’s dead-cod-to-the-face approach, any plot twist demanding creativity is ignored or packed tight in clichés. Carly is with Kate as Mark arrives home? Have Kate push Carly out a second-story window! The gal pals tail Mark on his rendezvous? Dress Kate like a cat burglar and cue the theme from “Mission: Impossible!”

“The Other Woman,” rated PG-13, is for 30-something women with the maturity of 12-year-olds. That would explain the poop humor and why the women scorned storyline features two-thirds of the female leads ultimately getting their happiness from a man. Not that the characters are deep to start with. Diaz’s busy businesswoman has been done to death, and Upton is here solely for her bouncy assets.

Even Mann’s Kate is a younger, more domesticated version of Nancy Meyers’s 1 percenter heroines, but I think Mann knows she’s playing a full-blown caricature. And she embraces it, infusing Kate with a manic, desperate energy — drunkenly refusing to go home after bonding with Carly, savoring the words Mark should have said years ago — that is noticeable. “The Other Woman” is brighter, funnier, and more self-aware when Mann takes control. Most importantly, it’s watchable.

Rating: W W

-For more of Pete’s cinematic musings, please follow him on Twitter, @PeteCroatto.