BLU REVIEW: People Like Us

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THE SET-UP
An estranged son (Chris Pine) returns home for his father’s funeral, only to learn he has a secret half-sister (Elizabeth Banks). Also starring Michelle Pfeiffer.
Directed by: Alex Kurtzman

THE DELIVERY
It was in and out of theaters in a flash, but People Like Us is a nice little dramedy from an unlikely duo: Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. The pair have brought us some of the biggest of the big-budget Hollywood offerings, incuding films like the Transformers series, Star Trek, Cowboys and Aliens, and TV shows Fringe, Hawaii 5-0, and Alias.

For People Like Us, Kurtman (serving as producer, writer, and director) and Orci (who wrote and produced) bring us a very personal tale, based partly on their real-life experiences. It tells the story of Sam (Pine), who finds his busy life complicated when he returns home after his estranged father dies. With his wife (Olivia Wilde) in tow, Sam has to confront his unresolved feelings feelings toward his father, especially when Sam learns his father’s will instructs him to deliver a sizeable amount of money to Frankie, a half-sister he never knew about (Elizabeth Banks).

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Sam then decides to become Frankie’s friend, without revealing that they are related. It is an interesting decision for Kurtzman and Orci to make in telling the story, and it plays well for a time. However, Sam keeps the secret for too long,and as a viewer, you will find yourself frustrated that Sam is leading Frankie along for so long. If there is a flaw in the film’s plot, it is here.

On the plus side, because the characters are so likeable, the high level of drama keeps you entertained more than frustrated. The personal problems on all sides pile up quickly, which would frustrate most viewers, but here, it is handled deftly enough, and the emotional payoff is satisfying without being too sappy.

Chris Pine proves Star Trek was no fluke; he has leading man material and is a capable, engaging actor. Here, he balances his flawed character with enough likeability to make you care. Elizabeth Banks is a decent actress, but she quickly wears thin in many of her roles. Thankfully, her role here is written well, and she has great chemistry with Pine, making the film that much better. Olivia Wilde is sort of an afterthought here, not getting enough screen time to warrant here even being in the picture. Her face seems to get wider with every role, by the way. Michelle Pfeiffer also gets too little screen time, but she does make the most of it.

Even though it is a series of emotional misadventures, People Like Us still has enough heart and soul to make it worth your while. It may not be as strong as other character dramas, as it has too many flawed characters, but it all pays off in the end.

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VIDEO AND AUDIO
The video image is excellent, with nice color reproduction and superb detail. There is little film grain and digital authoring issues like pixelation or motion problems. The DVD video transfer is equally good, even with its standard resolution. The audio may be free of explosions and special effects, but it is an excellent mix, giving the dialogue a deep, rich sound.

SPECIAL FEATURES
A number of special features accompany the film. A very nice documentary features interviews with the cast and crew, and provides some backstory to the true events that inspired the film. An extra entitled “Taco Talk” features a series of ad-libbed scenes between Elizabeth Banks and Chris Pine as the shot the scene at the taco stand. It is quite funny, especially considering most of the stories were their real-life experiences. Some decent deleted scenes and a gag reel round out the extras.

There are several audio commentary options, including director Alex Kurtzman and writer Jody Lambert on one, another with Kurtzman, Chris Pine, and Elizabeth Banks, and yet another scene-specific track with Kurtzman and Michelle Pfeiffer. 

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THE BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT OR REDBOX IT?
Ratings (1-10 scale)
Movie: 8
Video: 8
Audio: 8
Extras: 9
Overall Grade: 8.25

People Like Us is an enjoyable drama that is boosted by outstanding performances from Pine, Banks, and even Pfeiffer in her limited role. It doesn’t play out like a traditional family-relationship drama, which I can appreciate, and it is perfect for those looking for something other than the same old romantic comedies. It’s worth a rent, but the extras boost it to “BUY” status if you’re a fan of Pine or Banks, or just a good dramedy.

BLU-RAY SPECS
Release Date: October 2, 2012
Rating: PG-13
Running time: 113 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS HD-MA (Blu-ray), English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital (Blu-ray and DVD), English, French & Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital (DVD)
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, French, Spanish
Special Features: “Number One with a Bullet” documentary, “Taco Talk” footage, Deleted scenes, Bloopers
Audio Commentary: Participants include Alex Kurtzman, Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Jody Lambert.

Click here to order People Like Us on Blu-ray and DVD from Amazon.