Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks have family ties they never imagined in this Lifetime-y tear-jerker....
Buena Vista / 114 Minutes / 2012 / Rated PG-13 / Street Date: October 2, 2012
Even if you haven't rented it yet, you've seen People Like Us. The type of weepy, histrionic melodrama that gets re-run incessantly on Lifetime, this tear-jerker from director Alex Kurtzman may be accomplished in multiple arenas - performances, production quality - but there's nothing fresh or illuminating about the film-watching experience here: it's all a little familiar.
See if this sounds recognizable: Sam (Chris Pine) gets called back home when his father passes, and as he consoles mama (Michelle Pfeiffer), he learns that his dad - who he, of course, had a tumultuous relationship with - left a lot of money for him... and for the half-sister (Elizabeth Banks) Sam never knew he had. So Sam has to transport said death money to his newfound kin, and he learns a lot about himself along the way.
I have guilt poo-pooing People Like Us this way - I suppose it's clear that the movie has its heart in the right place - but family-struggle navel-gazing like this gets difficult for many viewers to stomach after a while. Yeah, it's nice to have a good cry once in a while, but the heartstrings People Like Us reaches out for are consistently obvious and simplistic. If you're in the mood to watch pretty people deal with death, you'll find occasional merit here, but I bet a majority of home theater enthusiasts will be turned off by the movie's pedantic aims.
But let's focus on the film's assets - mainly (no offense to Mr. Pine) its women. Pfeiffer knows how traverse this kind of dramatic territory well, so she infuses her thin character with a welcome wash of movie-star bravura. And Elizabeth Banks is also effectively kaleidoscopic - hell, even Olivia Wilde as Sam's girlfriend is an asset to the picture. It's not enough to give it any more than a movie-of-the-week feel, but it's better than nothing.