In writer/director James L. Brooks's latest film 'How Do You Know,' there's a lot more than a question mark missing. Brooks wrote snappy, smart dialogue for shows like 'Rhoda,' 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' and 'Taxi' before writing and directing his first film, 'Terms of Endearment,' in 1983. 'Endearment' was a critical hit, and swept the top categories in the Oscars, including three for Brooks alone (best director, best picture, and best adapted screenplay). His next film, 'Broadcast News,' further established his big screen cred, with no little help from its three strong leads, Holly Hunter, Albert Brooks and William Hurt. Since then, his films have fallen into a sort of parody of themselves, with 'How Do You Know' the most plastic of them all.
There are certain lazy parallels to 'How Do You Know' and 'Broadcast News,' in that it's about two men -- one nebbishy and screwed-up, one blonde and glib and not that bright -- who are smitten with a woman who is tough and smart and sort of a basket case. However, 'News' had the benefit of fully developed characters, the aforementioned excellent cast, a dynamic plot that takes place in the newsroom, and a subtext about style over substance in media. 'How Do You Know' has an aimless athlete who was just kicked off her team for being too old, her friends-with-benefits athlete boytoy, and a random dweeb she is sort of fixed up with who happens to be in the middle of a federal investigation.