Not great, but the target audience will like it

It’s Complicated is plausible only if you are willing to believe that Meryl Streep sells a lot of muffins. She plays a bakery and restaurant owner who lives in a sprawling hacienda in Santa Barbara. I’ve been to Oprah’s place, which is only a little nicer.

Meryl Streep and Alex Baldwin make middle age a tantric experience.

It’s Complicated

Two and a half stars

Rated: R (drug content and sexuality)

It’s Complicated is plausible only if you are willing to believe that Meryl Streep sells a lot of muffins. She plays a bakery and restaurant owner who lives in a sprawling hacienda in Santa Barbara. I’ve been to Oprah’s place, which is only a little nicer.

Give the sainted Meryl a lot of credit. Living alone, she occupies this space as if it makes perfect sense.

There’s an actress for you. Her children love her, her son-in-law adores her, and life would be perfect if it weren’t that her husband, Jake (Alec Baldwin), left her 10 years ago.

Jake married the much younger Agness (Lake Bell). Agness has a perfect body but a petulant expression, and for the life of us we can’t figure out why Jake left Meryl for her.

Neither can he.

Running into his first wife at their son’s graduation, he’s moved by memories of their past. At the bar , she unwisely orders a Tanqueray martini, dry, with a lemon twist, just before Jake walks in. That’s like disarming before the battle.

They experience something between love and tantric rapture. Alec Baldwin, it must be said, was born to play a man blissful in bed, and few other actors could so perfectly deliver his line, “Home, sweet home.”

Adam (Steve Martin), her architect, is meanwhile forging ahead with plans for the new addition on a house already spacious enough for a youth hostel. He visits a lot, and it is clear he’s smitten. Jane finds herself starting to like this guy while at the same time carrying on an affair with a married man, her ex-husband.

It’s Complicated was written and directed by Nancy Meyers, who after Something’s Gotta Give (2003), What Women Want (2000) and The Holiday (2006), has established a cottage industry in movies about romantically inclined middle-aged people. She favors tush-baring scenes from her stars.

There’s funny stuff here. We like everybody. At the same time, we’re aware that while it can be funny when a respectable lady gets stoned on pot, it’s difficult for even Streep to make it funny for 10 minutes.

It’s Complicated is a rearrangement of the goods in Nancy Meyers’ bakery, and some of them belong on the day-old shelf.

I must report that I expect It’s Complicated will be terrifically popular with its target demographic, which includes gal pals taking a movie break after returning Christmas presents.

Roger Ebert is a syndicated movie critic for The Chicago Sun Times.

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