Saturday, August 27, 2011

Review: The Best and the Brightest

If someone had told me that Barney Stinson, Shooter McGavin, and the stuffy dude who played Guitar Hero against Vince Vaughn in "Couples Retreat" were making a movie together, I would have run out to the local cinema with my AMC Stubs card in hand. The good news is that no one told me. The bad news is that when I did find out that the aforementioned Neil Patrick Harris, Christopher McDonald, and Peter Serafinowicz were in “The Best and the Brightest” together, no one told me how bad it was.

The movie aspires to be “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” meets “Old School” wrapped around the premise of a young couple trying to get their five-year-old daughter into a highfalutin school. The film wants to take a satirical peek at the culture surrounding overbearing privileged parents; deliver heartfelt commentary about reconciling one’s past against one’s future; and it wants to inject a bit of raunchy humor into the proceedings. Unfortunately Josh Shelov and Michael Jaeger leave us with a film that lacks the conviction and wit to do so.

Bonnie Somerville – a vanilla cross between Monica Potter and Bonnie Hunt, plays the first lead and lacks the panache or the chops to carry the film and while Neil Patrick Harris normally would be up to the task of injecting life into a moribund script, he is sorely miscast a milquetoast everyman. To make up for the blandness of Somerville and Harris’ characters, the filmmaker opts to amp up the absurdity that surrounds them. But no amount of dirty text humor and physical comedy can keep this plot from spiraling into a morass of mediocrity.

As for the rest of the cast, Christopher McDonald plays a caricature of Shooter McGavin, Amy Sedaris delivers her typical stock performance, while Serafinowicz shows a glimpse that perhaps with some good material, he could provide a winning comedic performance. There is very little to like about this film, as there is one quality glaringly absent from the proceedings – namely comedy. I suspect that even a couple with aspirations of placing their child in a fine academic institution would be hard pressed to find anything in this film to identify with.

Ultimately, this is a trap film. Die-hard fans of “How I Met Your Mother” could happen upon this title, read the cast and a brief synopsis, and decide to give it a try. That’s the only reason why films like this ever see the light of day. But under no circumstances do I recommend this film unless you are struggling with a bout of insomnia in which case it might do the trick. If it is more NPH you crave, hold out for the November releases: “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas” and “The Muppets.”

Notable Performance: Peter Serafinowicz shows promise as a comedic actor.


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