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dir-scr Ken Scott
prd Andre Rouleau
with Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders, Jack Reynor, Britt Robertson, Adam Chanler-Berat, Andrzej Blumenfeld, Bobby Moynihan, Simon Delaney, Matthew Daddario, Amos VanderPoel, Kevin Hopkins
release US 22.Nov.13, UK 10.Jan.14
13/US DreamWorks 1h43
Lessons in parenthood: Pratt and Vaughn
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Canadian filmmaker Scott remakes his scruffy 2011 gem virtually note for note as he transplants the action to New York. It's still an engaging combination of comedy and drama, and the story is still unbalanced by fundamental flaws in the premise and an irrelevant violent subplot. But it gets under our skin.
Irresponsible delivery man David (Vaughn) doesn't make enough working for his dad (Blumenfeld) to pay his debts, and his pregnant girlfriend (Smulders) is fed up with him. Then he discovers that, after donating sperm some 20 years earlier, he has 533 biological children, 142 of whom have filed a class-action lawsuit to learn the identity of the donor "Starbuck". While his lawyer pal (Pratt) prepares his defence, his curiosity gets the best of him and he starts following his "kids" as a kind of guardian angel. Then the global press gets hold of the story.
Vaughn is terrific for this role, with his likeable personality and towering-schlub physicality (oddly never echoed in casting his offspring). He's also adept at maintaining the comical tone while revealing more serious things going on behind his eyes as David discovers his paternal instincts. Pratt is also superb as the inexperienced lawyer trying to prove to his mother and his kids that he's not a loser. Just three kids (Reynor, Robertson and Chanler-Berat) register as real people, and Blumenfeld gets a terrific scene at the end.
As in the previous film, this script neglects to acknowledge that these young people have real families of their own, which undermines everything in the plot. And the nasty loan-shark element feels like it's invading from another movie altogether, adding nothing at all. This version plays the courtroom sequence for more drama while underplaying the kids' diversity. There's just one token disabled, fat, gay or mixed-race person, and the rest look like supermodels.
That said, everything's so heartfelt that it wins us over. Scott cleverly shifts the emphasis slowly from goofy comedy to more moving emotion, keeping the focus on David's personal journey so we don't actively dwell on the contrivance that he could juggle relationships with 142 children. And in the final third Scott cranks the sentimentality without going over the top, giving the audience a lovely sense of the parent-child connections and leaving us with a smile. =
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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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