Neither Particularly Funny, Nor Moving. Strong Cast Drowns Beneath The Fluff.
When you assemble a cast that includes 30 Rock’s Tina Fey, Arrested Development’s Jason Bateman and Girl’s Adam Driver to play the dysfunctional siblings of Jane Fonda’s uber-sexualised, celebrity shrink mom, you’d expect a manically riotous rollercoaster of laughs with some emotional heft to back it up.
Alas, director Shawn Levy (Night At The Museum) just can’t wrangle these talents into anything more than occasionally amusing fluff, oozing schmaltz from every pore, in his take on Jonathan Tropper’s novel.
With a screenplay adapted by Tropper himself (hey, Hollywood, how about you let the professional screenwriters do this stuff?) the film never hits the high notes you’d hope from a cast that looks fantastic on paper.
Bateman plays Judd Altman, who separates from his wife (Abigail Spencer) at the start of the movie, after finding her in bed with his sleazy shock jock boss (Dax Shephard). To add insult to injury, he receives a call shortly afterwards informing him that his dad has died. Returning to the family home, and the ridiculously augmented bosom of mother Altman (Fonda), in a rather creepy joke that’s laboured for all it’s not worth, she reveals that their technically Jewish but practicably atheist father’s dying wish was that the family sit together for Shiva, the traditional seven days of mourning,
Having drifted apart, the frays at the seams of this somewhat eccentric family soon come apart, in ways neither particularly interesting nor original.
Fey, as Wendy Altman, is horribly underused and never gets a chance to shine through the turgid dialogue dumped on her. A sub-plot featuring Timothy Olyphant as her former lover, living with a brain injury, is also short-changed.
Driver fares a little better, rising above the fluff by default of his manic delivery, with Friday Night Lights’ Connie Britton as this older, lawyer girlfriend. Rose Byrne is also likeable as Judd’s old flame. Corey Stoll rounds out the siblings as a grumpy bugger who’s having trouble conceiving with his wife, played by Catherine Hahn.
Fonda announces twice during the textbook shenanigans that subsequently play out, with a knowing wink to the audience, that it’s, “OK to laugh, or cry, there’s no correct response.” The problem is, there’s precious little chance of either in this rather disappointing film that winds up feeling like a real waste of some great talent.
Stephen A Russell