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January 21, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

It is being used as either a scornful epithet or a positive compliment, but the adjective “cute” pops up a lot in reviews for the Ashton Kutcher-Natalie Portman romantic comedy No Strings Attached, from veteran director Ivan Reitman. For the most part, the reviews aren’t all that bad, but they’re not all that good, either. Or as A.O. Scott in the New York Times puts it, “No Strings Attached … is not entirely terrible. That is high praise indeed, given that this is a film aspiring to match the achievement of 27 Dresses, When in Rome and Leap Year.” Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune sums up tersely: “You’ve seen worse.” Bruce DeMara writes in the Toronto Star: “What elevates No Strings Attached above the average (usually awful) romantic comedy is a decent script, the sure hand of veteran director Ivan Reitman and the likable performances of stars Portman and Kutcher.” “The few genuinely comic moments and deviations from cutesy rom-com formula make you wish No Strings Attached had traveled a more distinctively offbeat path,” writes Claudia Puig in USA Today. Virtually all the critics note that the movie is being released just days after co-star Natalie Portman won the best actress award at the Golden Globes for her performance as a young ballerina going mad in Black Swan. Roger Ebert notes in the Chicago Sun-Times: “Ambitious actors usually do dreck like this in order to be able to afford to make a movie like Black Swan.” But Jen Chaney in the Washington Post is among a number of critics who have high praise for Portman’s performance. She writes that the actress is “so consistently adorable here that she makes wide-eyed kittens and swaddled infants look like amateurs in the field of cuteness.”