'People Like Us' too much like other love stories

atomictown.comJune 29, 2012 

People Like Us is a love story with a twist. It is also an appropriate title.

The movie has familiar characters struggling with an unfamiliar movie family issue. While the issue is original, it heads to predictable places. You won’t be challenged.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

Sometimes, predictability is comforting. Boring but comforting.

Here's the premise. Chris Pine (Star Trek) plays Sam, an estranged son who deliberately misses his father's funeral. Fate and a persistent girlfriend get him to mom and dad’s in time for the end of the gathering.

He doesn’t want to be there and doesn’t want to stay. Then, a friend of dad’s gives him a big bag of money. There are instructions from dad. Strange instructions. Sam is supposed to take the cash to a boy. The boy turns out to be a nephew and the son of a sister he didn’t know existed.

Sam is also a wheeler, dealer and is in deep financial and legal trouble. He could use the cash. No one would ever know if he kept the money. Curiosity gets the best of him.

The sister is done by Elizabeth Banks. Her scene-stealing kid is played by Michael Hall D’Addario. Michelle Pfeiffer locks down the cast as Sam’s distant mom.

Writer Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek, Cowboys and Aliens) takes his first shot at directing. Sam gets involved in his sister’s life and the kid’s. She’s as bitter about the old man as Sam. A side-story here or there props up the plot a bit, but mostly it centers on him not having the courage to tell her that he’s her brother.

What works best is the chemistry between Pine, Banks and D’Addario. There are places where you wish Kurtzman and his co-writers would have developed a different plot so Pine and Banks — who sizzle together — could have a romantic relationship. Or cast Banks as the girlfriend and Cowboys and Aliens’ Olivia Wilde as the sister and develop the boyfriend/girlfriend thing into a deeper part of the plot.

Left with little but to drag out Sam’s inability to tell the truth, Kurtzman propels his soap opera and its characters in one direction until it reaches the predictably sappy happy ending.

Not even great performances from a charismatic cast saves this one.

Mr. Movie rating: 2 1/2 stars

Director: Alex Kurtzman

Stars: Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Mark Duplass, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Hall D'Addario

Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It’s playing at Regal’s Columbia Center 8, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.

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