As an asteroid nears Earth, a man finds himself alone after his wife leaves in a panic. He decides to take a road trip to reunite with his high school sweetheart. Accompanying him is a neighbor who inadvertently puts a wrench in his plan.
Shy 14-year-old Duncan goes on summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend, and her boyfriend's daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park.
When he finds out that his work superiors host a dinner celebrating the idiocy of their guests, a rising executive questions it when he's invited, just as he befriends a man who would be the perfect guest.
Iris invites her friend Jack to stay at her family's island getaway after the death of his brother. At their remote cabin, Jack's drunken encounter with Hannah, Iris' sister, kicks off a revealing stretch of days.
A fisheries expert is approached by a consultant to help realize a sheik's vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the desert and embarks on an upstream journey of faith and fish to prove the impossible possible.
Single father Dan Burns dedicates his life to his children, but one day he meets Marie at a bookstore. They get to know each other, but then Dan finds out that Marie is actually dating his brother, Mitch.Written by
Peter Hedges, who penned the screenplays for the admired indie films What's Eating Gilbert Grape and Pieces of April (and he directed the latter) as well as the successful adaptations of Nick Hornby's About a Boy and Jane Hamilton's A Map of the World, has now guided comic Steve Carell of Judd Apatow's The 40-Year-Old Virgin in a romantic comedy about two brothers vying for the same woman at a large family gathering--which will remind you of the one in The Family Stone, or Home for the Holidays, or for that matter Pieces of April, and a wide variety of American ensemble film comedies--all of which are better focused and more successful than this lame, often cringe-worthy attempt to merge Meet Cute with soppily sentimental treatments of death and sibling rivalry. What was Hedges thinking? He and everybody concerned are obviously capable of much better than this.
One thing that's overwhelmingly clear is that the main plot points got lost in the overstuffed ensemble shuffle. Even when Carell's character, Dan, a widower and "real world" newspaper commentator with three girls he can't connect with, is in a basement bedroom it fills up with a jumble of family members. Once Carell and a misused Juliette Binnoche have had their tiresome first encounter at a bookstore--whereupon he woos her by talking nonstop for an hour or so--dialogue that happily we're mostly spared--every scene is replete with aerobics, charades, amateur night, dancing, or extras running back and forth, including a bevy of poor child actors who rarely get to utter a line. And this is not to mention some positively sick-making song sessions. Ultimately this is a movie that avoids saying anything at all about love and about how people fall in and out of it. There's even an implied subtext that says love's better avoided or repressed. But it's hard to read any message here, since the primary sound is of static. And if motivations and emotions aren't developed, characters can't be, either.
The writing fudges every key point. What gets Carell so interested in Binoche in the bookstore? We never learn anything about her, nor does he. Suddenly he's all over her, gathering a pile of tones including Anna Karenina and a life of Gandhi, taking advantage of her mistaking him for the salesman. Hasn't that been done before? Yes, and better. Later, when Binoche leaves Carell's brother (Dane Cook), there's no scene showing why. Of course he's an offensive boor, but if she hasn't seen that so far, what makes her see it now? No dialogue, not even a frown, to tell us. The result is a movie whose main developments are predictable, yet inexplicable. Nor has Hedges the ability as a director to maintain a consistent tone (he veers too often in and out of maudlin and slapstick) or to thread the romantic comedy clearly through all the jumble of background. The noise overwhelms the dialogue, and some plot lines and characters got emasculated in the cutting room, or on the computer. Carell's mom, Dienne Wiest (also wasted) is inexplicably sadistic toward him. An ironic, pessimist relative, a potentially funny character, has only two lines, not enough to define him. The lovelorn daughter Brittany Robertson's boyfriend (Felipe Dieppa) is summarily packed off in a car, and that takes care of that little problem. When a writer-director's so short with his characters, how are we supposed to care about them? All Hedges has succeeded in doing is maintaining the noise level, and when it's all over, the memories, despite valiant efforts from the cast, are more embarrassing than funny.
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