Oh brother, smart dialogue just isn"t going to save this miserable family

Oh brother, smart dialogue just isn't going to save this miserable family

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UPDATED:

01:00 GMT, 9 November 2012

PEOPLE LIKE US (12A)

Verdict: People won't

Alex Kurtzman has written some of the worst films ever to become hits, including the first two Transformers movies. He was also partly responsible for last year’s floperoo Cowboys & Aliens.

Now he’s made his less-than-eagerly-awaited directorial debut, co-writing a drama about a dysfunctional family — the kind in which skeletons come rattling out of the closet, and relatives take turns to look aghast.

Based on a true story, this is about a fraudulent yuppie entrepreneur (Chris Pine) who hates his artist mother and rock producer father, but revisits Mom (Michelle Pfeiffer) after Dad’s death.

Scroll down to watch the trailer

Long-lost siblings: Sam, played by Chris Pine, spends time getting to know Frankie, played by Elizabeth Banks, while trying to figure out how to tell her they are siblings

Long-lost siblings: Sam, played by Chris Pine, spends time getting to know Frankie, played by Elizabeth Banks, while trying to figure out how to tell her they are siblings

Hoping to inherit some money, our dislikeable hero is handed a bag containing $150,000 and told to take care of an 11-year-old nephew (Michael Hall D’Addario) and grown-up sister (Elizabeth Banks) he never knew he had.

Will he take the money and run, or do the decent thing He takes an inordinately long time to make up his mind, and makes too many dumb decisions for us to care what happens to him.

It can only irk audiences that so many of his and his mother’s problems are self-inflicted, and require them only to tell the truth for the film to end quickly and put us out of our collective misery.

The reason it isn’t total misery is that there’s some smart dialogue. The tough-talking 11-year-old is endearingly downbeat about undergoing behavioural therapy: ‘I have to go to kids’ therapy and play with blocks till I die.’

Elizabeth Banks gives a terrific performance and is never better than when sniping at pretension. When our hero tells her he’s a ‘facilitator’, she says: ‘You’re sent from the future to kill me’ The dysfunctional family genre reached its Oscar-winning apogee with Ordinary People. This is nowhere near that class.

Kurtzman directs with a heavy hand and huge earnestness, but it boils down to trite platitudes about fatherhood and family.

Now watch the trailer