Thursday, August 7, 2008

Smart People DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Features Ellen Page in Familiar Role in Dysfunctional Family Comedy

Is Ellen Page capable of playing anything besides a wisecracking, suburban teen with a major attitude? If not, she’s in danger of being typecast till she’s too old to play another variation of Juno, the spunky, social outcast for which she landed her Oscar-nomination.

Meanwhile you’ll just have to settle for the latest incarnation of that flip persona in Smart People, a dysfunctional-family drama which might as well have been titled Smart Aleck. Ellen plays Vanessa Wetherhold, a high school senior who’s too much of an elitist to bother having friends or fun.

Instead, the academic overachiever spends her free time practicing for the SATs in quest of a stratospheric score. Ever since the death of her mother, her father (Dennis Quaid), a pompous college professor, has been emotionally-unavailable to her and her big brother (Ashton Holmes).

So, there isn’t much mirth in the lives of these three misfits until the fateful day that Lawrence hits his head and is treated by a former student (Sarah Jessica Parker) who still has the hots for teacher. At about the same time, who shows up but his ne’er-do-well brother, Chuck (Thomas Haden Church), a homeless bohemian in need of a place to stay.

Upon moving in, he becomes intent on bringing the uptight Wetherholds out of their shells via a combination of Marijuana and tough love therapy. In short order, he pressures Lawrence to date, James to loosen up and Vanessa to get high for the first time by telling her she’s a robot who needs to relax.

While the contrast between Chuck’s self-indulgent mania and their slowly-eroding conformity is often amusing, the film’s funniest moments by far, nonetheless, come courtesy of Ms. Page’s Juno, I mean, Vanessa. She has that terminally-sarcastic character down pat.

Juno 2, and just as inspired.

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated R for profanity, sexuality, and brief teen drug and alcohol abuse.

Running time: 95 minutes

Studio: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

DVD Extras: Deleted scenes, cast and filmmaker interviews, bloopers, outtakes, and a feature commentary by the director and the scriptwriter.

To see a trailer for Smart People, visit:

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