Not So Smart
Release Date: April 11, 2008
Audience: Older teenagers and adults
Runtime: 95 minutes
Distributor: Miramax Films/The Walt Disney Company
Director: Noam Murro
Writer: Mark Jude Poirier
Address Comments To:Daniel Battsek, President
Miramax Films (A Division of The Walt Disney Company)
375 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10013
Phone: (323) 822-4100 and (917) 606-5500
Fax: (323) 822-4216
Dennis Quaid plays widowed professor Lawrence Wetherhold, a brilliant, yet self-absorbed dad who has two equally brilliant kids, James (Ashton Holmes) and Vanessa (Ellen Page). Lawrence’s adopted brother, Chuck (Thomas Haden Church), comes to live with them just as Lawrence begins his first romantic relationship since his wife’s death with a former student named Janet (Sarah Jessica Parker). The family grows over the course of the story, each learning to be more kind and gracious with one another and to care for others, not just themselves.
Dennis Quaid gives a complex and funny performance as the curmudgeon professor. He is the highlight of the movie. The directing is good, as are the other production elements. Rising above “good” is the musical score, which sets a very unique tone for the movie.
The story’s few positive messages, however, are undermined by the movie’s humanist worldview, as summed up by Janet’s comment regarding the family’s problems, “We’ll figure it out. We’re smart people.” That’s the crux of the movie. The family relies on their own ability and intellect to solve their problematic relationship issues. They learn a little about caring for others, but still in a very self-centered way. The ending is not satisfying because the characters have been so obnoxious that most viewers will have trouble sympathizing with them.
There are many other problematic elements, including foul language and the idea that sex outside of marriage is considered the norm. Also, the step-uncle introduces the teenage daughter to alcohol and marijuana, and she thinks that this attention is romantic in nature. The daughter is a driven person, intent on the perfect SAT score. Her affiliation with Young Republicans is played for laughs and is considered a negative. The step-uncle, Chuck, is a “loafer” that can’t keep a job and is himself dysfunctional in many ways. Yet, he’s also sympathetic in that he wants to help Vanessa come out of her shell and not be so uptight. One positive element is that, when Janet discovers that she’s pregnant, she does elect to keep the baby with Lawrence’s support.
SMART PEOPLE is a movie with many smiles, though no big laughs. The story of a family trying to find its way after their loss is engaging. However, the characters remain so self-centered that, even in their best moments, they still are not likeable.
The story’s few positive messages are undermined by the movie’s humanist worldview, as summed up Janet’s comment regarding the family’s problems, “We’ll figure it out. We’re smart people.” That’s the crux of the movie. The family relies on their own ability and intellect to solve their problems rather than God or faith. There are many other negative elements, including foul language and scenes of sex. Also, the teenage daughter’s step uncle introduces her to alcohol and marijuana, and then she thinks that this attention is romantic in nature.