Smart People (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner15/05/2008

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 95 mins

This is very much a dysfunctional-drama-by-numbers and there's very little here you haven't seen elsewhere but it's worth seeing for a film-stealing performance by Thomas Haden Church.

What's it all about?
Dennis Quaid plays Lawrence Wetherhold, a grumpy, bearded academic who struggles to remember his students' names and has never really recovered from the death of his wife. When he gets a concussion after an accident, he needs someone to drive him around, much to the horror of his brainy kids, university student James (Ashton Holmes) and over-achieving Young Republican, Vanessa (Ellen Page).

Fortunately, Lawrence's loser brother, Chuck (Thomas Haden Church) arrives at just the right moment and volunteers to drive Lawrence around if he can crash at their house for a while. Meanwhile, Lawrence tentatively begins a relationship with a nurse (Sarah Jessica Parker as Janet) he met at the hospital, not realising she used to be one of his students.

The Good
Ellen Page adds a slightly meaner edge to her wise-cracking Juno persona but you end up liking her more than you're expecting to, especially given that she's a Young Republican. However, the film belongs to Thomas Haden Church, who's consistently hilarious throughout.

The Bad
Quaid is fine, if a little awkward (he looks like he's constipated), but there's no chemistry at all between him and Sarah Jessica Parker, which rather kills the romance element. The dysfunctional family angle, coupled with the fact that Dennis Quaid plays a bearded academic, means that Smart People is reminiscent of The Squid and the Whale, though it's neither as funny nor as moving. Indeed, the script is very much a case of dysfunctional-drama-by-numbers and there's very little here that hasn't been done better elsewhere – even Thomas Haden Church's character is basically a reprise of the role he played in Sideways.

Worth seeing?
Smart People is never less than watchable but you can't help feeling it's all been done better elsewhere. Still, it's worth seeing for Thomas Haden Church's performance.

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Smart People (15)
Smart People has been reviewed by 1 users
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Content updated: 17/12/2017 15:55

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