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Wiig glams up to play an ugly duckling in 'Girl Most Likely'

| Thursday, July 18, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

“Girl Most Likely” is a comedy from Kristen Wiig's alternate universe career — the career she might have had without “Bridesmaids.”

A daft, thin and instantly forgettable farce about a woman of once-great promise who fakes a suicide attempt to hang on to a beau who is bailing on her, it's the sort of movie that has its Manhattan heroine turn out to be from New Jersey — as if that's all it takes for hilarity to ensue. It relies on Wiig's charms, Matt Dillon's wackiness and lot of examples of that favorite crutch of underwhelming romantic comedy directors — cute time-lapse montages set to pop music.

Imogene (Wiig) is a blurb writer for the arts section of a New York magazine. It's not exactly where she saw herself 10 years ago, when her student play was winning acclaim and her future seemed bright.

And then she's fired from that blurb gig. Good thing she has her beau (Brian Petsos) to lean on. Only she doesn't. He's dumping her. Getting dolled up, writing a note and taking sleeping pills on the hope that he will be the one to discover and save her doesn't work out, either. The hospital promptly “sentences” her to be taken home by her estranged mother.

Annette Bening is Zelda, the blowsy, brassy Ocean City mom Imogene so wanted to escape. We quickly understand why.

Zelda's living with a blowhard (Matt Dillon) who whispers to one and all that he's a CIA hitman. And they're all sharing the rattletrap house with Imogene's special-needs brother (Christopher Fitzgerald). Imogone's old room? Zelda rented it out to hunky, young club entertainer Lee (Darren Criss of “Glee”).

“Girl Most Likely” tracks Imogene's flailing attempts to hang onto her wealthier, shallower New York mean-girl friends, her tentative attraction to the supportive Lee and her efforts to make sense of a life that had so much promise and went so wrong.

Wiig does this ugly-duckling-who-doesn't-think-she-deserves-the-guy thing well. But usually, she dresses down so much we believe her ordinariness. In this film, she's wearing Bullock-level makeup in every shot, even when she's trapped wearing her “old” '90s clothes, because that's all Imogene can find in the house she grew up in.

There's an engaging connection with her brother. And Dillon is an old hand at this sort of clueless, comical creep.

But co-directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (“American Splendor,” “The Extra Man”) never find the right balance between pathos and farce. And they compound their frustration at this by hurling pop-music montages to try and put a head on this flatter-than-flat beer.

Roger Moore is a movie critic for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

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