People Like Us (2012) Blu-ray Review: Wait, This Isn’t the Sequel to Spies Like Us

Family. Yes, there’s nothing like your own flesh and blood to screw up your entire existence and make you never want to socialize with any single member of the human race ever again. Yet, somehow, there’s nothing strangely satisfying in life than discovering a new branch on your family tree — a finding that gives you the false hope that, just perhaps, they will make your term on this Earth all the more complete. Or, at the very minimum, they won’t be as crazy as the rest of folks in your clan. Of course, I don’t know very much about family life. I’m anti-social with everyone — my family included — so it’s a good thing I can experience family life vicariously via movies like People Like Us.

No, I take that back. This sure as Hell isn’t what I call life. I’m half-doubtful these are even people.

Here, the less-than-dynamic filmmaking duo of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci — the anti-genii behind the god-awful Transformers series as well as the recent Hawaii Five-0 and Star Trek reboots — decide that they can write drama just as poorly as they can action and science fiction by delivering a flimsy flick filled with forgettably fast-paced dialogue (their trademark), but without any of the big explosions that normally accompany their projects. Chris Pine — the new Shia LaBeouf — takes center stage here as Sam: a hopeless New York City corporate barterer who reluctantly heads home to L.A. when he learns his famous record producer father has died.

As the cast repeatedly points out to keep the movie’s PG-13 rating, Sam’s father was a prick. However, he has left behind a shaving kit full of money — with instructions for Sam to deliver it to some kid (Michael Hall D’Addario) in town. As it turns out, the kid’s mum (Elizabeth Banks, as Elizabeth Banks) is actually Sam’s illegitimate sister — and, instead of telling the woman outright what the score is, he stalks her and does this weird, creepy Luke Skywalker shit instead; following her around to nonchalantly learn about the family he never knew existed, becoming a stable figure in both her and her fatherless kid’s life.

Because there’s nothing more interesting than meeting people you look up to as a father figure only to learn he’s your uncle. Or meeting the perfect man only to later find out he’s your fucking brother.

If you ask me, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci don’t know much about family life either. Michelle Pfeiffer co-stars as Pine’s mum, Olivia Wilde plays his suffering girlfriend, and Jon Favreau receives extremely prominent billing for a character that is only seen once at the beginning of the damn movie.

Were we still in the ’80s, People Like Us could have very well premiered without the benefit of anyone’s observation as the ABC Movie of the Week or a slightly off-kilter after school special. Instead, millions of lucky individuals have had the pleasure of paying to see this in theaters and now on home video — and Touchstone/Dreamworks lovingly bring us this banal, overly-dramatic crap to Blu-ray in a High-Def presentation that is a rather rich experience. In fact, it’s a lot better than People Like Us (originally titled Welcome to People) itself — boasting some very warm (if all-too yellow, in order to remind people we’re in Los Angeles) colors, deep black levels, and strong detail all-around.

A more-than-adequate 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless soundtrack accompanies. Considering the movie is a mostly dialogue-driven affair, there isn’t a lot in the way of explosions to be heard (well, one, plus some cranked-up music by artists like Accept, Bob Dylan, The Clash, and Foghat), but the mix still delivers. Special features include three different audio commentaries (all featuring Kurtzman and at least one cast or crewmember), a making-of featurette which dives into the origin of the movie (as well as its offensive and ever-exploited tagline “Inspired by True Events”), some alternate improvisations between the movie’s stars, and the proverbial deleted/extended scenes and gag reel.

Frankly, after watching People Like Us, I don’t think the gag reel will live up to its title. The movie certainly doesn’t: I don’t like these people at all!

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Luigi Bastardo

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