There's an intriguing true story buried inside this overly structured drama, and by playing by simplistic screenwriting rules the filmmakers make everything trite and predictable. Fortunately, the cast is much better than the material, and they bring their characters to life with jaggedly engaging interaction and some resonant emotion.
The story centres on Sam (Pine), a fast-talking New York salesman who is in big trouble professionally. So when his estranged father dies in Los Angeles, it gives him a chance to escape. He heads off to see his mother (Pfeiffer) and find out what he has inherited. But the lawyers hand him a bag of cash that he has to give to smart 11-year-old Josh (D'Addario), whose barmaid mother Frankie (Banks) is the half-sister Sam never knew he had. Without revealing his identity, he worms his way into Frankie and Josh's life. But the Feds are catching up with him, and Frankie is about to learn who he really is.
This is one of those films that hinges completely on the characters' inability to talk to each other. So one honest conversation at the beginning would make this a very short movie! But no, the screenwriters force everything into an unnatural formula that completely undermines the genuinely interesting things going on. Even so, the actors manage to hold our interest, mainly due to some terrific chemistry. At the centre, Pine nicely holds his own in scenes with the wonderful Pfeiffer and Banks, while D'Addario proves to be a young actor to keep an eye on. Meanwhile, side characters add texture, most notably Duplass as a neighbour with the hots for Frankie, and Wilde as Sam's frazzled girlfriend.
It also helps that there's a serious tone underlying the corny plotting, as scenes touch on meaningful themes about human connections. There are some very strong parent-child moments, and a gentle exploration of how the past influences us even when we do everything to avoid it. In other words, the superficial approach will annoy more discerning audiences, while easier-to-please viewers will have plenty to enjoy. And everyone's likely to find themselves choking back tears at the end.
Run time: 114 mins
In Theaters: Friday 29th June 2012
Box Office USA: $12.4M
Distributed by: Dreamworks Pictures
Production compaines: DreamWorks SKG, Touchstone Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 55%
Fresh: 62 Rotten: 50
IMDB: 7.1 / 10
Director: Alex Kurtzman
Starring: Chris Pine as Sam, Elizabeth Banks as Frankie, Olivia Wilde as Hannah, Michelle Pfeiffer as Lillian, Mark Duplass as Ted, Jon Morgan Woodward as John AA menber, Devin Brochu as Simon, Barbara Eve Harris as Mrs. Haney, Dean Chekvala as Jerry, Sara Mornell as Dr. Amanda Goldstein
Like an antidote to vacuous blockbusters, this intelligent, thoughtful drama packs more intensity into a...
This biopic gallops through the career of groundbreaking gangsta rappers N.W.A, working its way through...
Basically the perfect summer movie, this lightweight drama has a great-looking cast and plenty of...
As the ghoul from the 2012 horror hit stalks a new family, this sequel's sharply...
After setting the scene with vivid characters and some insightful interaction, the plot of this...
Both the characters and the tone have been updated as a new generation of Grizwolds...
Amy Schumer makes her big screen debut with a script that feels like a much-extended...
Adopting a deliciously groovy vibe, Guy Ritchie turns the iconic 1960s TV spy series into...