RATING |

Slow Learners is unquestionably the best romantic comedy to be set and shot in Media, Delaware County.

It's amusing by any standard - the offbeat story of two nerdy lonelyhearts who decide to spend a summer on the wild side.

Jeff (Adam Pally) is a high school guidance counselor, the kind of guy who offers high fives - unreturned - to the students. Women also find him uncool, leaving him so perpetually unattached that his parents, trying to be helpful, tell him they wouldn't be upset if he brought a man to a family birthday party.

He shares all of these indignities with his colleague Anne (Sarah Burns), also hopelessly single.

As potential dates/mates, they're second-tier prospects, played by actors in Hollywood's second tier (in terms of stardom, not talent).

Pally is best known for his work on TV, in The Mindy Show and Happy Endings. Burns turns up on the edges of comedy ensembles - she was Rashida Jones' redheaded friend in I Love You, Man. Other credits include "Hiker No. 1" in Enough Said, and she has exactly one line in the coming Lily Tomlin comedy, Grandma. Burns is an accomplished comedian, a member of the Upright Citizens Brigade, and you wonder whether she stood there on set, watching Tomlin and wondering: Will I have to wait until I'm 76 to get a shot at a lead role?

Philadelphia filmmakers Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce, best known for their work as documentarians (The Art of the Steal, The Atomic States of America), come to her rescue.

In Slow Learners, the directors give improv pros Pally and Burns plenty of room to maneuver as Jeff and Anne - self-described "dorks" who gamely decide to run the gauntlet of lewdness and looseness that modern culture seems to demand of singles.

Pally borrows a leather jacket from his ladies-man friend (Reid Scott) and starts preying up single mothers, becoming a sort of less-glamorous, less-ethical Jerry Maguire.

Anne starts dancing on bars, encouraging men to drink Fuzzy Navels from her fuzzy navel.

For a couple of natural squares, this is exhausting work. When they've sufficiently worn themselves out, their defenses come down, and they are able to see what the audience sees immediately: They're meant to be together. It's Dork Destiny.

You can see shades here of The 40-Year-Old Virgin (the movie also earns its R-rating), but Slow Learners has its own energy and own cast of comedy pros. Scott from Veep, Kevin Dunn as Jeff's dad, and Catherine Reitman as Anne's married friend round out a capable cast.

EndText

215-854-5992