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Papadopoulos & Sons
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by Jay Seaver

"Sweet, if simple."
3 stars

I was recently reminded that my grandmother reads what I write here, which may be why one of my first reactions to "Papadopoulos & Sons" was that it would be a good movie to bring parents or grandparents to; it's fairly pleasant, uncomplicated, and mild in content. But then I figured that's kind of selling one's elders short; as much as this is a likable movie, it doesn't always put in the work to earn it.

Harry Papadopoulos (Stephen Dillane) has certainly put in the work; the man who immigrated to the UK as a child is being honored as Entrepreneur of the Year for his line of Greek food products and forthcoming retail center. The economy suddenly takes another turn, though, and it turns out that Harry has overextended himself so that not only is the company put into administration but his home is taken as well. Where can he and his kids - heiress-in-training Katie (Georgia Groome), would-be-horticulturist James (Frank Dillane), and pre-teen day-trader Theo (Thomas Underhill) - go? Well, it turns out that there's one property the government can't touch because it's still half-owned by estranged brother Spiros (Georges Corraface) - who thinks that re-opening the old "Three Brothers" fish & chips shop would be a brilliant idea.

It's not a bad idea, really - returning a rich man to his roots both to connect him with what he left behind (which, almost unfailingly, is what's Really Important) and to introduce his spoiled children to hard work is a story that pretty much everyone can relate to in some way. And writer/director Marcus Markou introduces an interesting wrinkle or two, in that Harry is offered the choice of seeing the company he spent his life building disassembled to support the project which bankrupted him or remain intact in someone else's hands. I also got a kick out of the first shots of the Turkish owners of the kebab place down the road looking like he's been waiting twenty years to put the Papadopoulos family in its place.

The trouble is, Markou has smoothed almost all of the rough edges away. Harry spends the movie more mopey than angry or broken, for instance, and while the audience is told that Spiros has a history of irresponsibility and alcoholism, the present-day version is mostly just optimistic. The kids never have moments when they really need to learn something from their new circumstances - heck, Theo cheerily talks about how he trades based on patterns rather than whether a company does something valuable, which is arguably how the economy became such a mess, and is basically treated as clever. Even knowing that Harry is good at this sort of thing, the movie seems to underestimate how difficult it is to start a small business, with that process not worthy of its own montage, splitting one with the romance between Harry and Sophie (Cosima Shaw), the nice American accountant working on his company's bankruptcy. The end isn't even manipulative, instead just checking off the list of things manipulative movies do.

The amiable cast is a fair match to the material, at least. Stephen Dillane does a nice job of making Harry seem a little put-upon without making him whiny or obnoxious, just a little misplaced in these situations and able to move on to the next. He gets a nice scene or two with Georges Corraface toward the end to nicely cement their characters' bond as brothers. Corraface is a genial-enough presence; his character may not be as complex as he should be, but every scene he's in is enjoyable. The same can be said of Cosima Shaw - there's no real need for a love interest in this movie, but it's nice that she's there. Georgia Groome, Frank Dillane, and Thomas Underhill are fine as the kids.

Underhill does wind up saying a lot of lines that make me wonder if Markou has ever met an actual kid, though. The script's got its fair share of lines like that, which don't come across as disasters but are only a little funny. There's a reasonable number of ones that hit well, though, especially when the characters do something that doesn't quite fit the usual template.

"Papadopoulos & Sons" ends on a Greek celebration bit that's at once stereotypical but also seemingly quite aware of how offensive it could be and thus treading very carefully. It's the movie in a nutshell - well-intentioned, likable, and kind of bland. There's worse things to be, but the bland certainly does threaten to overpower the movie's better qualities.

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originally posted: 08/27/13 12:18:09
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  05-Apr-2012 (15)


Directed by
  Marcus Markou

Written by
  Marcus Markou

  Stephen Dillane
  Georgia Groome
  Ed Stoppard
  Frank Dillane
  Selina Cadell

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