People Like Us: Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks Avoid Incest

Let us now take this moment to praise Michael Bay. In a Hollywood career devoted to blowing shit up, he’s had the good sense never to make a personal movie. Unfortunately, that is a restraint not shared by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (writers of Transformers and other summer blockbusters), who wring a long, sappy melodrama out of Kurtzman’s real-life discovery of a half-sister. Sam (Chris Pine) is an indebted, fast-talking jerk of the Jerry Maguire template, estranged from his folks back in L.A. Father dies, Chris reluctantly flies west, and the lawyer hands him $150,000 in cash. Not to keep, but to deliver to an 11-year-old, the son of cocktail waitress Frankie (Elizabeth Banks), whom Chris begins to follow to AA meetings and beyond. He reveals nothing, choosing to remain a stalker/guardian angel while deciding whether to keep the cash or not. His withholding strategy parallels the movie’s, which waits until about the 95th minute (of 115) for him to spill. It’s a four-act soap opera that actually would’ve been improved with commercials. Instead, debut director Kurtzman offers action-movie editing—like there’s a bomb to defuse!—and montage sequences. Pine and Banks are adequate, but the real victim here is Michelle Pfeiffer as Sam’s mother (yes, a benchmark is passed). She’s assigned the menopausal trifecta of anger, deceit, and disease. People Like Us is slower than Tarkovsky; it’s like watching three James L. Brooks movies in row. Next time, please, stick to the exploding robots. It’s all Kurtzman and Orci know.