When Lars and the Real Girl hit theaters last fall, its ludicrous premise boy falls for sex doll seemed to recall the whimsical '80s love story Mannequin (department-store lackey finds romance with fiberglass woman). Well, someone at MGM smelled marketing synergy: Why else would the studio drop Lars the same day as the double feature of Mannequin and its new-to-DVD sequel, Mannequin 2: On the Move?
Lars and the Real Girl moves the man-in-love-with-an-inanimate-object fantasy into the modern, post-Mannequin era by adding a surprising and effective level of gravitas. As the wearily earnest Lars, Ryan Gosling totes around his girlfriend, an anatomically correct sex doll named Bianca. In a twist, his Midwestern town makes her ''real'' by playing along, ostensibly to help him work through his delusion. But eventually, the empty-headed Bianca actually acquires some authenticity. ''The film's about people communicating with each other and coming together, and about connecting,'' says director Craig Gillespie in an interview. As a contrast to the Mannequin movies, his point couldn't be more spot-on: By the film's end, we've grown unexpectedly attached to Lars and his Capraesque town.
In the cheekily comic featurette ''A Real Leading Lady,'' costar Emily Mortimer raves about Bianca: ''She sits quietly.... She doesn't...throw hissy fits and, you know, demand things.'' But the lack of substantive extras Where's the Gosling commentary? Extended outtakes? The sit-down with Oscar-nominated screenwriter Nancy Oliver? leaves us feeling a bit deflated. B+