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Just One Word: Plastics

MOVIE REVIEW
Post Grad (2009)

Original
Suzanne Tenner/Fox Searchlight Pictures

More than four decades after “The Graduate,” the confusion of the first post-college summer — in which the familiar ecosystems of the university suddenly transform into the far more challenging ones of the real world — has remained a potent cinematic subject. Unfortunately, the makers of “Post Grad” pretty much botch it.

Director Vicky Jenson and screenwriter Kelly Fremon turn the struggles of high-achieving Ryden Malby (Alexis Bledel) to gain a foothold in the working world into dopey comic fare. Ms. Bledel’s easy charisma goes to waste in a narrative that’s more concerned with aggressively cornball, sitcom-style scenarios than any sort of genuine exploration of the challenges of matriculation in today’s tormented economy.

Commencing with its overwrought opening — in which Ryden introduces herself in a swirl of pop-up windows, text boxes and other technological gizmos left over from the early 2000s — the film seems predisposed to come across as dated and nonspecific as possible. It’s a personality-driven dysfunctional-family story in which the dysfunctions are quaint and nonthreatening. Paterfamilias Walter (Michael Keaton), a mall store huckster, wants to start a belt-buckle business and; mom, Carmella (Jane Lynch), spends her time taking care of oddball younger son Hunter (Bobby Coleman) while grandma Maureen (Carol Burnett) cracks wise.

The picture turns on the Malby family’s collective drive towards fulfilling the American dream, carried out in an atmosphere that reeks of sunny movie comedy blandness. They live in a quaint home in a picturesque California suburb that exists out of time, untouched by any contemporary concerns; and the filmmakers don’t attempt to make the movie about more than its plot. There’s nothing recognizable about the ensemble of eccentrics, each of whom has come straight from the screenwriting factory, while Ryden’s post-graduate struggles get reduced to the unexpected loss of her dream job and an ill-fated romance with a dreamboat neighbor (Rodrigo Santoro). Slapstick situations unfold without much innovation and the actors, as if compensating for the lacking script, desperately mug for laughs. Amazing that a movie so forcibly loaded with charm could be so humorless, but there you have it.

POST GRAD

Opens on Aug. 21 in the United States and on Jan. 1, 2010 in Britain.

Directed by Vicky Jenson; written by Kelly Fremon; director of photography, Charles Minsky; edited by Dana Congdon; music by Christophe Beck; production designer, Mark Hutman; produced by Ivan Reitman, Joe Medjuck and Jeffrey Clifford; released by Fox Searchlight. Running time: 1 hour 29 minutes. This film is rated PG-13 by M.P.A.A.

WITH: Alexis Bledel (Ryden Malby), Zach Gilford (Adam Davies), Rodrigo Santoro (David Santiago), Jane Lynch (Carmella Malby), Fred Armisen (Guacanator Pitchman), Bobby Coleman (Hunter Malby), Carol Burnett (Grandma Maureen) and Michael Keaton (Walter Malby).

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