Picture Perfect

“Picture Perfect,” the new movie starring Jennifer Aniston, Jay Mohr and Kevin Bacon, suffers from an identity crisis.

It’s billed as a romantic comedy, but it hardly even tries to be funny. It focuses more on the romance, but even that aspect of it is unoriginal. The filmmakers obviously hoped Jennifer Aniston would appeal to male viewers, and she is dressed almost constantly in low-cut, high-riding dresses — but if they wanted men to see the movie, why did they focus so much on the romance, which men don’t really care to see?

And if they wanted women to see it, why did they make the main female character so morally unsympathetic and two-dimensional? Oh, it’s riddled with contradictions, and it makes my head hurt.

The basic premise has been used a thousand times before: Someone convinces someone to pose as something he’s not in order to fool someone else. Kate (Aniston), a self-made career woman, is photographed with a stranger, Nick (Mohr) at a wedding. Her “friend” shows this photo around the office and tells the bosses that Kate is engaged to the man in the picture, hoping to impress them with how stable and mature Kate is. It works, she gets a promotion, and now she has this fictional fiance to maintain.

Naturally, the bosses want to take her and her hubby-to-be out to dinner, so naturally she offers to pay Nick the stranger $1,000 to pose as her boyfriend and then break up with her in front of everyone, and naturally things go wrong, and naturally they accidentally fall in love.

I have no problem with the plot being over-used. Plot isn’t everything in a movie, as long as it’s used creatively. The problem — and this goes along with the movie’s confusion as to its identity — is that the plot contradicts itself over and over again.

For instance, Kate is willing to pay Nick $1,000 to play the fiance role for a weekend — but she won’t get him a hotel room to stay in, instead having him sleep in her apartment, making it convenient for them to fall in love.

When the guy she really wants (played by a very oily Kevin Bacon) comes on to her, she doesn’t want to sleep with him because she’s supposed to be “engaged.” Rather than getting what she wants and letting Bacon think she’s cheating on her fiance, or even telling him the truth, she stays loyal to a fictional character! A fictional character that, I might add, she treats like garbage when she hires him to be her fiance. Her character is so ill-defined, without motivation and, frankly, mean, that it’s impossible to identify with her.

Jay Mohr, who was on “Saturday Night Live” for a while in 1994, is the standout talent in “Picture Perfect.” The audience feels sorry for his sweet, heroic character, and he is genuinely funny and sincere in his role. At the end, when Kate finally comes to her senses and tries to hook up with him, I found myself hoping he would turn her down, like she deserved. Of course he doesn’t, and everything turns out exactly the way you knew it would when you walked in.

It’s exactly like a TV show, only with more swearing and sex — this movie works hard to earn its PG-13 rating, and that alone makes it unworthy to be recommended as a “date” movie, which is what it would be otherwise. (Guys, you don’t want to take a girl to a film that’s going to make her blush, do you? If you do, what kind of girls are you dating?)

And it’s no surprise that it seems like a TV show. Aniston and Mohr are best known for their TV roles, the director used to work on “Moonlighting,” and the writers are all TV veterans. Everything is simple, unimaginative, and bland, like your generic TV sitcom, and the picture is far from perfect. Don’t bother seeing it.

C- (; PG-13, sensuality and related dialogue.)