"The Baxter," which is about the right even of dweebs to land the right girl, is a dweebish catastrophe itself. Slavishly and unimaginatively following the lock-step routine of most Hollywood romantic comedies, it's about as exciting and unpredictable as a pocket calculator. It's as if writer-director Michael Showalter, who also stars in the film, was directing with one hand while consulting "Rom Com for Dummies" in the other.

Showalter plays Elliot Sherman, an uptight accountant even by uptight accountants' standards, who's apparently headed for wedded bliss with Caroline (Elizabeth Banks), a drop-dead and highly successful beauty. But he's dumped at the altar for her old flame Bradley (Justin Theroux).

That makes him "the Baxter," the one who's always tossed for the better suitor. In a flashback scenario, we are shown how Elliot got to this point. In other words, how could he have lost out on Caroline? Excuse me, Mr. Showalter? White Duh-tesy phone for you. The question should be: How did this romantic stiff land her in the first place?

We go back (kicking and screaming) to the beginning, when Elliot meets not only Caroline but also Cecil (Michelle Williams), a young office temp who is crashingly obvious as the future Mrs. Sherman. The remainder of the movie amounts to double pain: how Elliot misses the obvious with two people. Horror movies are supposed to be the only place for people making stupid decisions. The tragedy of "The Baxter" is that we never get the satisfaction of watching an alien, shark or gator take care of these cliched characters the right way.

-- Desson Thomson