Another summer slice of counter programming to its usual more bloated (budget-wise) mainstream fare is almost tailored like an auctioneer given that it's a dramatic comedy about "finding your family" which could be a little disconcerting to those eager to take it in.
Chris Pine (This Means War) and Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games) lead a well-cast, uplifting, if manipulative People Like Us (changed from Welcome to People).
Pine's Sam is a character who takes some time to warm up to (if enough so) as the Big Apple fast-talking salesman has suffered at work (the FTC is on his boss's back) and also personally when word comes about the loss of his father.
He's been estranged from his L.A.-based family for some time with girlfriend Hannah (Olivia Wilde) unbeknownst to this side of him; Sam's in a broken state, even more so when his father has bequeathed him vinyl; the plot by tyro director Alex Kurtzman and collaborated on by fellow scribe Roberto Orci has Sam having to deliver $150,000 (left n a shaving kit with instructions) to a young boy (as he considers keeping it for himself given his precarious financial position) who turns out to be his nephew.
After disappointing his mother Lilian (Michelle Pfeiffer of Dark Shadows) Sam's curiosity gets him to his bar tending half-sister rock-n-roll groupie Frankie (Banks) and troublesome 11-year-old son Josh (Michael Hall D'Addario). Part of the enjoyment of the picture derives from Sam getting to know family he never knew he had even if the personal information withheld from them really sets the storyline into a fairly familiar schematic which still maneuvers well enough to ingratiate an audience.
Pine and Banks effectively play off (with some emotion) each other well enough as the latter uses the psychological reserves of Frankie to make her less irritating than she may often seem and the former's paternal angst helps to smooth things out (a bit) for Sam. Perhaps the surprising presence is D'Addario who often upstages his older counterparts when around them with acerbic ebullience. Pfeiffer adds a welcome plaintiveness to a mother (formerly a hatcheck girl who idolized Joni Mitchell) who comes to terms with her son, while Jon Favreau (as the boss), the ubiquitous Mark Duplass and Philip Baker Hall help fill out some of the backup performers
You can see the influences on Kurtzman (also often a producer) from his other projects like Cowboys & Aliens and Star Trek especially through scene segueing as he could have kept things less febrile with editor Robert Leighton. Still, from the agreeably genuine sounds of composer A.R. Rahman and the refreshing look at the City of Angels complements of Salvatore Totino when it comes to detailing lesser known parts of Van Nuys and Laurel Canyon (and their environs).
People Like Us may struggle to achieve the desired word-of-mouth while somewhat misleading from its advertising its conventional wisdom and climactic prolonged sentiment may have a few saying they can take it or leave. But, Kurtzman and his cast still can bring something special to the table when establishing and valuing the emotions surrounding family.