I have been such a huge fan of Sarah Jessica Parker since before it was fashionable (yes, I'm old enough to have watched Square Pegs in its original airing), but I wonder why she can't seem to pick a movie script lately that has half of the wit and intelligence of HBO's "Sex and the City." Even the "Sex and the City" movies (especially the second one) lacked the energy and humor of the TV series. "I Don't Know How She Does It" is just the latest unfortunate misfire. The well worn premise is so dated and tired, I don't even know where to begin. If you think that women working in the professional arena is a new or novel phenomenon, this movie might be for you with its antiquated ideas and expected punchlines. It has all the modernity of a Doris Day film with its insulting and old-fashioned notions. From the get-go, the movie lets us know that Parker is both a terrific mother and a fantastic career woman. Problem is--the screenplay really never makes the case that either of these points is true. Oh how can a woman possibly juggle a career and family? Apparently a lot of lying is the key--whether to the bake sale committee or to your boss, it's all the same and absolutely adorable!
Parker has a seemingly idyllic life with her husband (an underutilized Greg Kinnear) and two kids. She manages to be wildly successful at work even though she embodies every negative cliche about working mothers that you can possibly imagine. She shows up late, always has food stains on her clothes, is in perpetual disarray, and generally just bumbles about. That's okay, she's a mother (with a full time child care worker no less) so it's expected that she would be a harried mess. When she accidentally sends sexually suggestive emails to an important client, it's endearing (when in reality, who would do business with a "professional" who can't even manage their personal emails?) Never mind that Parker is completely unconvincing, the film has plenty of others to insult. All of the men at work are dismissive and/or conniving. Again, what decade is this? Women have been a part of the workforce for quite some time now! But the most loathsome portrait of all is saved for stay-at-home moms. They are vindictive and judgmental harridans who occupy their days with selfish pursuits instead of working.
Parker relies, as always, on her nervous energy and clumsiness to mine for physical comedy. She's such a hugely talented actress, though, I'd like to see her dig a little deeper for a change. There's no reason why she isn't among the best in her field. Kinnear brings an easy charm to his largely unexplored second fiddle role. And Pierce Brosnan (as the previously mentioned client who works with Parker on a huge project) has a refreshing deadpan that enlivens the scenes that he's in. Even he gets smitten by the lice-ridden Parker. Why not? There are moments in "I Don't Know How She Does It" that are amusing, but the film strains for sentimentality as well. If you think that Miss Parker can't have it all, well then you underestimate her pluck. There are a lot of humorous movies that detail the challenges of working women and mothers everywhere (whether in central themes or peripheral plotlines). "I Don't Know How She Does It" misses the mark with its sexist and dated viewpoints--and worse, its stale jokes. I liked Kinnear and Brosnan, but the screenplay could use a real dose of tartness and reality. KGHarris, 12/11.