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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 12.5%
Average: 12.5%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap75%

1 review, 2 user ratings

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People Like Us
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Peter Sobczynski

"Boo To The Blah"
1 stars

Although the two films are linked only by the fact that they share the same distributor, the commercials for "People Like Us" have been working overtime in order to establish a connection with last summer's box-office smash "The Help" in the minds of potential moviegoers. While this is basically being done as a shorthand move by the producers to sell a movie via the old "If you liked. . ." gimmick instead of revealing what it is actually about, it also inadvertently serves as an ideal warning those moviegoers who found "The Help" to be off-putting melodramatic claptrap of the lowest and ickiest order to stay as far away from it as possible because it is just as bad as the earlier film, if such a thing is conceivable. In fact, it may actually be worse because for all of the sins of "The Help," its success may have alerted Hollywood that if a movie that terrible could attract an audience that big, it might inspire them to take chances on other stories that might appeal to the older adult demographic that turned out in droves for it while "People Like Us" is so insulting and so craptastic that it could send viewers out into the street with no desire to ever see a movie again.

Chris Pine, the man who would be Kirk, stars as Sam, a semi-sleazy businessman dealing in the bartering of overstock goods being held by various companies. As the story opens, he in the middle of a bad day that starts with the discovery that his cost-cutting moves have destroyed an expensive shipment of canned soup, continue on when he discovers that he is on the hook for the bath being taken on the broth and culminates when girlfriend Hannah (Olivia Wilde) informs him that his estranged father--a celebrated music producer whom we learn was responsible for the entity known as Kajagoogoo--has passed away. Needless to say, he is more concerned about the soup and thanks to some sneaky moves on his part, he manages to delay his return home long enough to just miss the funeral, a move that endears himself to his mother (Michelle Pfeiffer) and all of us in the audience when you get right down to it. The only reason that he even bothers to show up is to claim enough of an inheritance to repay his consommé calamity but it turns out that all he receives is enough vintage record albums to score at least two Cameron Crowe films (hopefully without resorting to the Kajagoogoo). However, dear old dad has made one other request that he wants Sam to honor--to deliver a shaving kit filled with a large sum of cash to the half-sister he never knew he had as a present to the half-nephew that he also didn't know he had.

Okay, now let us assume for a moment that you have found yourself in a situation similar to the one posited here. If you happened to be in such a position, what would you do under the circumstances. The way I see it, there are a couple of options. In the morally suspect one, you can simply ignore the wishes of the father you haven't seen for years, keep the money and use it to pay off your chowder-related debts. In the detached, business-like model, you can simply divorce yourself from all emotional ties by tracking down the half-sister and sending the money via courier so as to avoid any potentially messy entanglements. Finally, there is the version that reaches for catharsis and closure by tracking down the sibling you never knew you had, introducing yourself to her and her child and taking a chance on making up for lost time with a person that you should have been allowed to have some kind of relationship with--that may sound tricky and slightly fraught with emotional peril but for a guy who wakes up every morning with dreams of conquering the bisque market, it shouldn't be that much of a challenge. Hell, if it works out, you might even be able to tap her for a loan. Okay, pencils down--let us see which path the film chose to take.

After being given the money and the information about his heretofore unknown relatives, Sam contemplates keeping the money just long enough to send Hannah home in a horrified huff so that he can be left by himself. Eventually, he tracks down Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) and follows her into what turns out to be an AA meeting where she mistakes him for a new member and he. . .lets her that and gives no indication as to his true identity or the reasons for his appearance. The next day, he meets up with her son, Josh (Michael Hall D'Addorio), a brilliant-but-troubled young twerp who has just been suspended from school for blowing up the swimming pool, and bonds with him at the local record store by suggesting the essential albums to own if you want to seem hip in a shitty and by-the-numbers dramedy involving well-to-do white people. (Seriously, if as many people in real life owned the first two Clash albums as they do in films like this, The Clash would be rivaling The Eagles in terms of sales by now.)

Eventually, Sam winds up bonding with both of them but try as he might--which is not very hard--he simply cannot bring himself to reveal who he is to them until it is time to precipitate the crisis that leads into the final act and that takes at least 80 minutes or so, not even when she begins to respond to his oily charms in an inexplicably romantic manner. When he isn't laying down the foundation for the massive emotional scarring of his half-sister and nephew because of his self-absorption and inability to come clean about anything, he is alternately bonding or battling with Mom, who has a secret or two of her own that needs to be dramatically revealed as well? Did she know about Frankie and Josh? Does she herself has some kind of affliction that puts her participation in the final scenes at risk? Did she in fact kill her husband and use her son to smoke out the other heirs in order to rub them out in order to supplement a cut of the publishing to "Too Shy" as her inheritance? More than one of the above? See "People Like Us" and find out for yourself. Better yet, don't.

"People Like Us" wants to come across as a touching and powerful drama about people coming to terms with stuff but doesn't even come close to achieving any of those goals. The story is one of those constructions that requires everybody to a.) act like a complete moron and b.) fail to grasp the obvious even when it is staring them right in the face in order to keep what little narrative drive it has going. Seriously, if anyone in this film acted like a semi-sentient human being for more than five minutes, the story would have ended by the middle of the second reel at the latest. And since even the dopiest audience members are quickly going to realize that roughly two-thirds of the story is going to be the cinematic equivalent of treading water because of the necessary delay of the revelation of the obvious, what little dramatic tension there is to be had is centered on whether the half-siblings are going to sleep together or not. Sure, incest seems to be all the rage in the entertainment world these days thanks to things like "Game of Thrones" and "That's My Boy" but while degenerate behavior of that sort can be accepted in the context of stories featuring creatures like dragons, trolls or Andy Samberg, it doesn't come across quite as well in the context of a story so utterly bland in virtually all other respects. I suppose that this kind of material could serve as the inspiration for something interesting and challenging but Alex Kurtzman, who directed in addition to co-writing the screenplay with Roberto Orci and Jody Lambert, has no idea what to do with it and the end result is so bizarrely off that it would bleakly amusing if it weren't so goddamned boring.

Because "People Like Us" does not contain explosions, alien invasions, vampires or any of the other elements normally found in the typical summer movie entry, there may be the temptation in some quarters to give it a break in their reviews on the basis that it is somehow superior to those films as a result. And yet, this film is just as fake, hollow and repellent than the usual blockbuster junk--maybe even more so depending on how angry you get at watching its absolutely inept attempts at emulating actual human behavior. Besides, if your only criterion for seeing a movie at this point is that it is different than the usual seasonal multiplex fare, there are a few wonderful options out their for your viewing pleasure ranging from such relatively mainstream efforts like "Moonrise Kingdom," "Magic Mike" and "To Rome With Love" to smaller and more offbeat works like the quirky Richard Linklatter crime story "Bernie" and the powerful documentary "The Invisible War." These are films that are smart, intelligently crafted and executed and leave you with plenty to think about as you leave the theater. By comparison, all you will come away with after seeing "People Like Us" is the sneaking suspicion that you should have had the soup instead.

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originally posted: 06/29/12 12:30:37
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Nantucket Film Festival For more in the 2012 Nantucket Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Seattle International Film Festival For more in the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival For more in the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/26/12 The Taitor A cookie cutter kind or movie with a couple of small twists/reveals, a bit predictable 3 stars
7/09/12 Ming Good story deals with people's problem. I like the ending. 4 stars
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  29-Jun-2012 (PG-13)
  DVD: 02-Oct-2012

  09-Nov-2012 (12A)


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