When a Bad Movie Happens to Good Actors, the results can be devastating.
For us, that is.
Actor-director John Krasinski’s “The Hollars” is an uneven, ineffective and self-conscious dysfunctional family comedy/drama with a Sundance-y vibe, and scene after scene in which the greatly talented and usually quite likable cast members keep stepping in big piles of wrong choices.
Let us count just some (mildly spoiler-laden) cringe-inducing examples:
• The normally sublime Richard Jenkins is all over the place with his performance as Don Hollar, a failing businessman and so-so father of two grown sons. (We’ll get to those jokers in a moment.) Don reacts to his wife’s illness by bursting into tears seemingly every few minutes — but Jenkins so overplays it, we’re not sure if he’s asking us to feel for him, or laugh at him, or what.
• Krasinski plays Don’s son John Hollar (he’s John, son of Don!), a wannabe graphic artist who hates his cubicle-based job and can’t fully commit to his wonderful, smart, attractive, loyal, supportive, loving, financially secure and oh by the way pregnant girlfriend Rebecca (Anna Kendrick). Waaaah, my comic book characters aren’t good enough! Waaaah, I still think about my hot girlfriend from high school!
This guy’s self-pitying ennui would be off-putting enough if he were a 23-year-old millennial. But he appears to be about 35, well past the age where he should either BLANK or get off the BLANK, as my old uncles used to say.
• Sharlto Copley (“District 9”) plays John’s older brother Ron (he’s Ron, brother of John, son of Don!), a jittery creep who was recently fired from his job — working at his own father’s company. Ron’s a coward who ran away from his wife and two young daughters because he “wasn’t ready” for commitment — but now that she’s dating Josh Groban’s do-gooder Reverend Dan, he wants her back, so he has taken to stalking her and their children, albeit ineptly. Now THERE’S a fun-filled subplot.
• Speaking of creepos, “The Hollars” has another one for ya. Charlie Day (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) plays Jason, a nurse assigned to help care for the aforementioned Mrs. Hollar (Margo Martindale), who has a large brain tumor. In addition to being a terrible nurse who doesn’t seem to care a whit about his patients, Jason’s an insecure, combative jerk, and he freaks out when John Hollar returns to the old home town due to Mrs. Hollar’s illness. You see, Jason’s now married to John’s high school sweetheart Gwen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and they have a baby together — but Jason’s a bad husband and apparently not much of a father either, and he’s convinced John is going to try to steal Gwen from him. Laughs do not abound from this story thread either.
• The very funny Randall Park (“Fresh Off the Boat”) plays Dr. Fong, the brain surgeon who will operate on Mrs. Hollar. Park plays the character with all the plausibility of a portrayal of a doctor on a “Saturday Night Live” sketch.
Every once in a great while, “The Hollars” gives us a truthful dramatic moment, e.g., when Martindale’s Sally tells her son John something about her past even her husband doesn’t know about, or when Kendrick’s Rebecca shows up at the Hollar household to support her boyfriend even though he doesn’t deserve her.
Mostly, though, we get stuff like characters singing the Indigo Girls’ “Closer to Fine,” and a wacky baby-delivery scene, and shamelessly transparent attempts to put a lump in the viewer’s throat.
More like a twitch in the leg and an eye on the EXIT sign.
Sony Pictures Classics presents a film directed by John Krasinski and written by Jim Strouse. Running time: 88 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for brief language and some thematic material). Opens Friday at local theaters.