Thursday, July 9, 2009

Review: Away We Go

Depending on what stage you're at in your relationship with your significant other, Away We Go would either make a perfect or a terrible date movie.  Having seen the film by myself, I personally couldn't say, but I'm willing to bet that you wouldn't want to see this on a first or second date.  Away We Go is the kind of film that likely will appeal more to newlyweds and parents than to teenagers on a first date.

Not to suggest that its demographic is set in stone or anything; that's based solely on the characters and their situation. The movie begins with Burt (John Krasinski) discovering that his longtime girlfriend Verona (Maya Rudolph) is pregnant.  Cut to months later, when the two visit Burt's parents (Catherine O'Hara, Jeff Daniels) to deliver the sonogram photos.  Here, Burt's parents announce that they're moving to Belgium right before the baby is due.  Burt and Verona take the news as an opportunity to pull up stakes and find a better home for themselves and the fast-approaching baby.

From there, the film hits its groove as a road trip movie, with our couple bouncing from Phoenix to Tuscon to Madison to Montreal to Miami in search of the perfect place to raise their daughter, only to find that all of their family and friends are tragically bad role models for both them and the baby.  Verona's former boss (Allison Janney) is a lush who sees no problem with disparaging her two pudgy kids in public.  Burt's childhood friend Ellen (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a hippie/feminist/whatever with some... odd views on sexuality.  Their college roommates (Chris Messina, Melanie Lynskey) have adopted four kids while repeatedly failing to produce their own.

It seems like everywhere you look in this film, there's a horrible (or at the very least tragic) individual threatening to kill any hope for Burt, Verona, and even the viewer.  But to what end?  To show that everyone in the world is a terrible person?  That it doesn't matter where you live, problems exist everywhere? That's getting close to it, I think.

It still puzzles me why the film is little more than an episodic journey in bad parenting, but the counterpoint to that is the fact that John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph are pretty great in this film.  They're our proxies.  They think all these people are just as messed up as we do.  Krasinski plays Burt as a big kid who's whole-heartedly dedicated to bringing his own kid into the world the right way, and a lot of the film's charm rests solely on his shoulders.  In contrast, Maya Rudolph is calmer and more subdued than her work on Satuday Night Live suggested she could pull off.  If Krasinski is the comedic center of the film, Rudolph is the emotional center.

Overall, Away We Go isn't anything to rave about, but it's a far sight better than most of the big, dumb action movies released this summer.  If maybe not a truly memorable film, it is at least the perfect counterprogramming to the summer movie season.  I'd recommend it to anyone looking to escape from the exploding excess of films like Transformers, or those seeking a fresh take on the whole rom-com genre.

smilesmilesmilesmile 4 stars out of five

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