FILM FANS: 'People Like Us' is a dramedy that pulls at heartstrings

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3 out of 4 stars

I enjoyed seeing "People Like Us," written and directed by Alex Kurtzman (and based partly on his real childhood life). The story is complicated and full of drama with some sweet and lighter moments in between. We follow the journey of Sam (played excellently by Chris Pine, recently from "This Means War").

He has found out his father (who he wasn't close to) has died and he begrudgingly heads to the funeral, largely encouraged by his girlfriend. After some events unfold, he learns he has a half-sister, Frankie, played perfectly by Elizabeth Banks. He also has a nephew and there are some neat uncle moments, though the exact relationship is not revealed up front.

There are some good messages about forgiveness and family, and I liked the ending. This film was a solid attempt to navigate all the varied nuances and emotions of the dynamics of Sam's past and present as he has to make a big decision evolving from his father's last wishes.

-- Cindy Evans, Duluth

2 and 1/2 out of 4 stars

The best category I can think of for this movie is "mature family comedy drama." The story is a bit convoluted, and they spend much more time than needed developing the characters involved, however, when they do eventually get to the "meat" of the story, it actually is very entertaining with some poignant and touching moments. It was very well acted by Chris Pine ("Unstoppable") and Elizabeth Banks ("The Hunger Games").

As the story goes, Sam (Pine) is caught up in a commodity trading deal that has gone very wrong that puts him in trouble with his boss and the FTC. While he is dealing with this problem, he learns that his estranged father has died, needs to leave his mess behind and travel back home to help settle the estate. When he arrives, he is told by his father's attorney that he has been left the task of delivering a shaving kit with $150K in it to a half-sister (Banks) that he never knew he had.

As his relationship with his newly discovered sister develops, along with her precocious 11-year-old son, (and trying to decide whether or not to keep the money), he also re-connects with his mother (Michelle Pfeiffer) and discovers, in the process, the values that should have been important to him all along.

Longer than it needs to be, with some good acting and lots of examples of true family values. A little too heavy for the kids.

-- Steve Kalberg, Lawrenceville

2 and 1/2 out of 4 stars

"People Like Us" stars Chris Pine as Sam, a smooth-talking salesman who learns of his father's death on the same day that a large deal he has just made has collapsed. The pacing is terrific during the first third of the movie, as we join Sam on his journey into the past. We meet Sam's mother, Lillian (played by the beautiful Michelle Pfeiffer, in a subtle understated performance) and his estranged sister, Frankie (Elizabeth Banks, who makes the most of the material she is given), and start to discover how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

Unfortunately, about half-way through the film, the plot runs out of gas and gets bogged down in implausible scenarios and emotionally manipulating soap opera-like drama. Running at almost two hours, this film could have probably told the story in 90 minutes or less. Still, "People Like Us" is a harmless summer date movie featuring pretty people and a story (based on true events, apparently) that tugs at your heart.

-- Paul Tate, Sugar Hill