A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that People Like Us is a drama that tackles mature themes, including adultery, abandonment, and the loss of a father. Starring two actors who are popular with both teens and adults (Star Trek's Chris Pine and The Hunger Games' Elizabeth Banks), the story follows two long-lost half siblings who discover each other after their father's death. Strong language includes a couple of "f--k"s (one of which is said by an 11-year-old), and a kid punches a classmate and blows up his pool as a joke. A single mother has a quickie with a friend (no nudity), and two adults kiss a few times. An alcoholic mentions her past struggles with substance abuse and promiscuity, and a dead man's many flaws (infidelity, lying, leaving a child behind) are discussed over and over again. Blended families may bristle at the way a man and his wife dealt with his child from an extramarital relationship.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Smooth-talking Manhattan salesman Sam (Chris Pine) has just found out he's in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission when his father dies. He purposely misses his father's funeral but still travels to California with his girlfriend, Hannah (Olivia Wilde), to visit his estranged mother (Michelle Pfeiffer). Sam's father, Jerry, a famous music producer, has bequeathed him his extensive record collection -- and the task of finding a boy named Josh, to whom he's left $150,000 in cash. Devastated by the news, Sam considers keeping the money until he discovers that Josh's mother, Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) -- a recovering alcoholic and single mother -- is the half sister Sam never knew he had. Sam then ingratiates himself in Frankie and Josh's lives without letting on that he's their brother/uncle.
Is it any good?
Pine and Banks (she especially) are the kind of charming performers who are ridiculously likable -- even in otherwise bland films or forgettable roles. PEOPLE LIKE US, which was directed by Transformers screenwriter Alex Kurtzman, isn't mediocre; it's got an interesting premise and a winning chemistry between the leads. The problem is that when Sam decides not to tell Frankie he's her brother, he violates the sacred Jerry Maguire rule of messing with a single mother. Frankie inevitably falls for Sam -- as would any woman in the presence of Pine's outrageously handsome face and selfless interest in her behaviorally challenged child. That one choice is so unforgivably misguided and, frankly, unbelievable, that it's hard not to cheer when Frankie beats him up after discovering his secret.
But even the fundamental flaw of Sam allowing Frankie to believe that he was just a gorgeous dream guy helping out an attractive single mom doesn't completely ruin People Like Us -- precisely because Pine and Banks are such endearing actors. Before the big reveal, the two get to know each other through deep conversations over tacos, laundry duty, and sodas at a hip hotel bar. Sam also becomes a fatherly figure to precocious middle schooler Josh, who's wise and witty beyond his years (another bit of inauthenticity). They bond mostly via music history instruction, which Sam gladly provides by extolling the virtues of vinyl and New Wave legends like the Clash. Even with its many missteps (the excellent, nuanced You Can Count on Me, this is not), People Like Us' performances make it a sibling drama worth seeing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how People Like Us portrays parent-child issues. Which parent and child have/had the healthiest relationship? How are parents and kids typically depicted in the media?
Does Josh seem like a believable 11-year-old? How does the movie depict tween angst? What are the consequences of his acting out at school?
It seems like many movies are about misguided adults who become better people by getting to know a kid. Do you think there are enough multi-generational stories in movies?
- In theaters: June 29, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: October 2, 2012
- Cast: Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde
- Director: Alex Kurtzman
- Studio: Touchstone Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: language, some drug use and brief sexuality
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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