Soppy-terrible. People Like Us has the considerably charismatic Chris Pine in a role that strongly recalls Tom Cruise in “Rain Man.” Pine is slick salesman Sam, whose career temporarily interrupted following the news that his father has died. He doesn’t want to attend the funeral, but his fine girlfriend (Olivia Wilde) gets him onto a plane. Once there, he’s more interested in collecting an inheritance more than anything, even more than hanging out with distressed Mom (Michelle Pfeiffer). He’s nearly disappointed (close call on thinkin’ he got nothing!), by wait, passed down to him is a surprise satchel with $100,000 in it! But hold on, his deceased dad’s request is for Sam to give the money to a specific stranger living at a disclosed address. Waitress chick Frankie (Elizabeth Banks, amped up with boobage), a single mom with a kid in tow, is the real inheritor. Self-absorbed and hard-edged, Sam is one of those guys that will keep the money to himself – until a newfound moral compass tells him to hand the money over.
This is one of those movies however where a guy like Sam waits endlessly to tell his long-lost sister that they’re related. Why are filmmakers so afraid of inserting a confession scene in the early to middle screenplay stages? Are they really afraid that their movie is going to be over? So as a result, we get endless subterfuge where Sam the mysterious stranger dodges the truth. He wants to help out the distraught Frankie, but on a platonic level – because hey, let’s remember here, they were made from the same genes!
This is also one of those movies where the sister, here it’s Frankie, is going to get really, really outraged when she learns of Sam’s true identity. Because it’s humiliating, to her! Because he was all about LIES LIES LIES, to her! She throws him out and wants nothing, ever, ever again, to do with him. And the money! It’s dirty, she can’t take it! It didn’t impress her after all that Sam bonded with her 11-year old son over classic rock music.
Admittedly, as much as I loathe these type of clichés and Hollywood’s phony idea of tough modern families, the movie had a few affecting scenes. I found none of it wispy, or teary, or heartrending, no. But maybe Pine and Banks ennobled some truth in what it’s like to grow up abandoned. Still, “People Like Us” is supposed to be hardship family stuff, but come on, it’s pretty weak compared to aches and pains I dealt with growing up. If this movie feels like rough livin’ to you, with big godforsaken problems, then you’ve led a pretty good life. Hats off to you.
It’s bad like “Elizabethtown” or “My Sister’s Keeper.” Not good like “Paris, Texas” or “The Kids are All Right.”
115 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
TEEN DRAMEDY / LIFE LESSONS / AFTER SCHOOL SPECIAL
Film Cousins: “Paris, Texas” (1984); “Elizabethtown” (2005); “My Sister’s Keeper” (2009); “The Kids are All Right” (2010).
Official movie website: click here.