Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell heat up a basic sun-and-fun rom-com in ‘Anyone But You’

Glen Powell and Sydney Sweeney star in Anyone But You.

Glen Powell and Sydney Sweeney star in “Anyone But You.”Brook Rushton/Sony PicturesCNN — 

“Anyone But You” joins a subgenre of romantic comedies where the challenge isn’t so much bringing the couple together, but finding creative ways to keep them apart. Mostly, this fun-in-the-sun romp in Australia (because hey, it’s summer there) serves as a showcase for Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell, who amiably meet the demands of the exercise even if the script only occasionally follows suit.

Sweeney and Powell’s Bea and Ben meet very cute at the outset, spending a heady night together before she runs off, leaving him confused and angry, and she soon overhears him dismissing her to his buddy in an act of bravado.

Flash forward, and his friend (“Tick, Tick… Boom!” star Alexandra Shipp) is marrying her sister (Hadley Robinson) at a destination wedding in Australia, forcing the two to spend time together despite the lingering hostility over their rather thin mix-up. What’s more, the wedding party includes Ben’s ex (Charlee Fraser), while Bea’s meddling parents (Dermot Mulroney and Rachel Griffiths) desperately want her to mend fences with her old boyfriend (Darren Barnet), forcing the two into a kind of uneasy alliance to try to keep all the outside noise at bay.

As directed by Will Gluck (who made a previous foray into this genre with “Friends With Benefits”) – who shares screenplay credit with Ilana Wolpert – none of this is particularly convincing, but nor does it really need to be. The chemistry between Sweeney and Powell works, they certainly make for an appealing billboard, and there are a few broad laughs, the only big one involving a particularly ugly and intrusive Australian spider.

Mostly, “Anyone But You” represents an intriguing example of career management, with Sweeney – who has expressed frustration with the level of tabloid attention she generates, from discussion surrounding nude scenes to her family’s politics – branching into romantic comedy after serving as HBO’s “It” gal in “Euphoria,” “The White Lotus” and the spare movie “Reality.” For his part, Powell gets to exhibit a softer side after his straight-arrow turns in “Hidden Figures,” “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Devotion.”

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As a playful closing-credit sequence makes clear, this is the kind of movie that essentially serves as holiday counterprogramming – with its R rating, aimed at a slightly more adult crowd – a perhaps-dated idea that nicely sums up the nature of the exercise.

At one point, Ben is described fondly as a “gorgeous idiot,” which is basically what’s required to make something like “Anyone But You” plausible, and as he’s later told by Bea, “We’re all in seventh grade when it comes to this stuff” – one of the movie’s few memorable lines.

Then again, gorgeous idiots need love too. You just have to believe they need a little help in order to find it.

“Anyone But You” premieres December 22 in US theaters. It’s rated R.

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