Friday, September 19, 2014

This Is Where I Leave You Movie Review

Tina Fey and Jason Bateman (r) star in This is Where I Leave You

Anything Happens All the Time

Movies like Shawn Levy's This Is Where I Leave You literally come a dime a dozen. What makes one stand out from the rest? Chemistry. It's that undeniable, secret ingredient that you either have, or (more often) don't. Put Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and Jane Fonda in a room together; and odds are, they're going to entertain you. Toss in a couple of strong supporting performances from Adam Driver & Kathryn Hahn, and you have the potential for something special. Levy's film falls short of special; but there are dozens of laughs to be had, and that's more than enough to overlook the movie's sitcom-esque aura. In other word's... It's funny: Go see it.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: The dramatic comedy "This Is Where I Leave You" is directed by Shawn Levy, and based on the hilarious and poignant best-selling novel by Jonathan Tropper. It features a starring ensemble cast including Golden Globe winner Jason Bateman ("Arrested Development"); Golden Globe and Emmy Award winner Tina Fey ("30 Rock"); and two-time Oscar winner, multiple Golden Globe honoree and 2013 Emmy Award nominee Jane Fonda ("Klute," "Coming Home," HBO's "The Newsroom").

What’s Best: The aforementioned chemistry turns relatively average writing (Tropper's screenplay, not his book) into something that's both comforting (family = good, loneliness = bad) and funny. Fonda stuns at 76, while pulling double duty as dutiful matriarch and mourning widow with "bionic breasts" in between. Meanwhile, Bateman, Driver and Fey form a trio of genuineness, that props up the rest of the movie. I never had a sister growing up; but if I did, I'd want her to be just like Fey's Wendy.

What’s Not: Fey's fun to watch; but her crocodile tears are surprisingly amateurish at this level (after all, this isn't an SNL skit.) It's also difficult to ignore the film's many predictable characters... almost all of whom sport convenient labels (i.e. Boner, constant dick, the girl who never left, etc.) It's just a movie: There's no need to hold our hand through it.

P.S. Dax Shepard's in it (frown.) He's damn annoying (as usual.) Enough said.

Best Line: Wendy pushes Judd (Bateman) to his limits, before he finally lets loose with, 'I'm divorcing her whore ass!' Hillary (Fonda) chimes in with, 'I miss him, and I miss it;' but I give top honors to something more... sentimental. Phillip (Driver) tells Wendy, 'You're the voice in my head.' Aw.

Overall: The dramatic moments miss badly; but there's enough good will, courtesy of Bateman, Driver, Fey and Fonda to make you feel all warm and cuddly inside. Phillip tells his Mom, 'I'm way too old to have this nothing,' but truth is... all that nothing is what makes his character so gosh-darn endearing (that, and Bateman's eternal charm.) Like it or not, everyone needs a little bit of good, old-fashioned family fun to remind you what's really important in life. Thanks for the reminder.