Love, Guaranteed is a throwback rom-com with a contemporary subject, but the romance is predictable and the comedy is virtually nonexistent.
If you glance over the cast list or skim-read the premise of Love, Guaranteed, Netflix’s latest midweek romantic comedy, you can predict every single thing that’ll happen in it — and you’ll be right. Only rarely is a film so proudly formulaic, both in plot and character; director Mark Steven Johnson is working here from a script by Hilary Galanoy and Elizabeth Hackett that seems to have been penned by lucky-dipping into a bag full of tropes and archetypes. The resultant endeavour is a throwback genre film with a contemporary premise that’s nonetheless played-out already, and it seemed to leave both genuine romance and funny comedy on the cutting room floor.
A returning-to-her-roots Rachael Leigh Cook plays Susan, a careerist civil litigator who has no time for love since she’s fighting the good fight. But her latest client seems to have time for nothing but. Nick (Damon Wayans Jr.) is the charming, good-looking, good-hearted man who’s here to show her what she’s missing in life, but first, he plans on suing the titular Love, Guaranteed, a dating app that promises love as part of its sales pitch and hasn’t been able to deliver. And he’ll need Susan’s help to do it.
Susan is dismissive of the case at first since it seems Nick has found a classic legal loophole — in the small print, the app guarantees love within 1000 dates, and he’s rapidly approaching that number thanks to a combination of breakfast, lunch, and dinner dates — and is just out for the money. But of course, he’s really trying to prove a point about the dispassionate way these apps package and sell human connection to people who’re emotionally vulnerable. He’s really, earnestly looking for love, and it isn’t a spoiler to suggest that he finds it by the film’s end, in exactly the place you’d expect.
The journey to get there, though, is remarkably tedious. Most of the “comedy” here comes from Susan’s research into online dating, which leads her to profound realizations such as most online daters providing pictures that don’t look like them and bios that don’t really represent who they are. Love, Guaranteed feels a couple of years too late when it comes to finger-wagging at online dating, and a couple of decades removed from the need for a charismatic, handsome man to show a workaholic woman how to have fun. It’s a throwback to a simpler time of flatpack late-’90s rom-coms built on two stars and some vague underlying idea — doesn’t even have to be a good one. In this case, it isn’t, but the so-called stars have lost a lot of their lustre too. Love is only guaranteed because the film can’t think for itself. Exercise your free will by swiping left.