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This Is Where I Leave You review

Arrested plot development

On paper, the combined acting talents of This Is Where I Leave You sound like a sure thing. But the strained expressions that dominate this bittersweet comedy about four bickering siblings (Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Corey Stoll, Adam Driver) coming home to sit shiva (a seven-day Jewish mourning custom) after their father dies say it all: this is a dream-cast souffle that has been badly baked by director Shawn Levy and writer Jonathan Tropper, adapting his own novel.

Levy’s plunge into the Altman clan’s dysfunctional world is not without promise. We kick off with Bateman’s radio producer Judd arriving home after discovering his wife shagging his boorish boss (Dax Shepard). It’s a steady launchpad, but it’s also clear as soon as he’s through his mother’s (Jane Fonda) door which plot strands will work and which won’t.

Fonda and Driver are the standouts here, playing the pushy, sexually frank matriarch and the delinquent son engaged to his older life-coach respectively. Both actors manage to surmount the substantial cliches of their characters, with Driver demonstrating why he’s so in demand. The rest of the cast fares less well. Bateman’s rekindling of a romance with old flame Rose Byrne comes off as filler; Fey spends her unhappy scenes with a 30 Rock smirk on her face; and Stoll and Kathryn Hahn spin their wheels as marrieds in a losing battle with infertility.

This Is Where I Leave You marks a departure for director Levy, best known for the Night At The Museum movies. Credit to him for attempting to bring undercurrents of pain and melancholy to all the sentiment and comic sparring, but the end result feels less authentic than Real Steel and Date Night , two of Levy’s previous soft-hearted outings, combined.

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