A Period Comedy
Technically there is nothing seriously wrong with "No Strings Attached"; it is on par with many modern romantic comedies with the amusing idea of Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher playing to people who decided to be sex buddies with no commitments. But get beyond the amusing fantasy of Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher playing sex buddies and there is little else. In fact even before watching "No Strings Attached" you can second guess how the whole movie is going to play out with it proving more difficult to have no relationship when having sex than either of the characters imagined and unfortunately the comedy and romance fails to kick in when it falls into this predictable territory.
Adam (Ashton Kutcher - What Happens in Vegas) and Emma (Natalie Portman - Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium) first met as teenagers at summer camp and over the years have frequently bumped into each other, sharing numbers and the occasional pleasantries when they meet. But when Adam finds his father is dating one of his ex-girlfriends it leads to a moment of drunken madness when he tries to hook up with anyone whose number is in his phone leading to Emma. After a moment of mad passion they decide that maybe they could be sex buddies especially as Emma doesn't want any commitment just tension release when needed. But secretly Adam wants more and whilst going along with the idea of being sex buddies he finds it harder than he imagined whilst Emma starts battling with her own feelings for Adam.
I wouldn't say that "No Strings Attached" is best at the start because a scene featuring a teenage Adam and Emma features some poor comedy but the first 20 minutes or so as they bump into each other over time and eventually end up being sex buddies is where the movie is at its most entertaining. It's not that we see anything close to being original as we see them hook up for moments of sex be it in hospital rooms or in a car but because this is Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher having comically extreme sex it is quite good fun in a sort of fantasy kind of way.
The trouble is that once you get the fun of these frequent and fleeting f@#ks out of the way "No Strings Attached" becomes predictable because it centres on Adam wanting more than just random sex whilst Emma whilst liking Adam is fearful of commitment. You can guess how this will play out with their unorthodox setup ending up having relationship problems and it becomes a procession to what is inevitable.
Now this wouldn't be so bad if this second part had great romantic comedy going on but for the most it is ordinary with some jokes which are as poor as the opening scene. The whole comedy of Adam's dad hooking up with one of his ex-girlfriends does little as does all the comedy relationship issues. In truth the only really funny moment is when Adam shows up to see Emma during her time of the month and makes her an ironic mix CD of songs for the menstrual cycle. Beyond that one semi clever gag I am struggling to remember anything truly funny or romantic and that is what it needed to lift the obviousness of what is going to happen in the story.
What this all means is that "No Strings Attached" becomes a comedy which relies heavily on Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher playing sex buddies and like the movie the first part is good when they are having extreme and brisk hook ups. But after that their characters are starved off anything decent and it starts to feel like they are sleepwalking through all the obvious humour. Even the supporting cast which features Kevin Kline, Lake Bell and Jake Johnson are unable to inject any life because they suffer from the same lack lustre humour.
What this all boils down to is that "No Strings Attached" is a movie which had an idea and a cast but once the idea of Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher having commitment free sex was done with there was nothing to make the rest of the movie come to life making it ultimately ordinary and forgettable.