Michelle Pfeiffer

“People like us”

Have you heard of “People like Us”? It’s by the same studio–Dreamworks–which had released “The Help.” “People” barely even meets that previous mediocre effort, however, and lacks the two name actresses who made “The Help” the film that it was. That “People” was written by the same scribes (Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman; they also directed this new film) who were behind the “Transformers” screenplay is no surprise: this is about as mechanical as storytelling can sometimes get.

Did you know? Hilary Swank read the script and pursued a role in this film but was ultimately turned down.

“People” centers on Sam (played by a Chris Pine who could really use that “Star Trek” sequel) a smooth-talking barterer in debt up to his neck and about to lose his job when he hears that his no-good father passed away. Something that he wishes he could just wave away will instead reveal that Sam has a half sister named Frankie (Elizabeth Banks), the incarnation of the clichéd hard-luck single-mom. Sam’s father left him some money to give to his second family but for some reason he keeps bumping into them and never tells them they’re all related. Before long he’s hanging out with Frankie’s son (a recovering alcoholic, who works in a bar) and making her think he’s romantically interested in her, something that would feel downright creepy if “People Like Us” weren’t so obviously trying to tug at your heart’s strings.

Will he give her the money? Will he ever reveal his true intentions? Will they all learn to care for one another as people tend to do? Chances are you’ll figure it all out before the movie even starts. It looks like the directing-screenwriting team of Orci and Kurtzman got stuck on autopilot, spreading the dull melodrama and uninspiring generalizations on thick. You’ll have your hallmark-style moments (Sam and Frankie bonding over what a dick their “dads” were, Sam’s dealing with unresolved issues with his mother, who’s played by Michelle Pfeiffer; pictured), a conflict which could’ve been avoided and a teary-eyed resolution that feels manipulative.

“People” is like a hack version of a Cameron Crowe movie: even classic rock records are incorporated in the story. The actors tried their best but ultimately this is like whipping a dead horse–the genuineness and surprises never come through. A better title for this movie would have been “People Are Bored Stiff by Us.”

Photo by Zade Rosenthal, Dreamworks II Studios

Olivia Wilde and Chris Pine (in a still from the film, courtesy of Dreamworks II Studios)