People Like Us is a certifiable adult drama built atop sturdy thematic supports, a rare enough item these days, though it's telling that the movie was originally titled Welcome to People, after a self-help workbook within the film. Sam (Chris Pine), a career-obsessed New York wheeler-dealer, is reeled back to hometown L.A. upon the death of his father, who had a multiplatinum record as a '70s music producer/A&R man but was a flop as a dad. Once home, Sam is charged with executing his father's estate, delivering a fat cash inheritance — money Sam desperately needs — to Frankie (Elizabeth Banks), the half-sister he never knew he had. Although he wins the trust of Frankie, an overextended bartender, and her son, Josh (Michael Hall D'Addario), Sam can't bring himself to reveal his actual identity. (Considerable disbelief must be suspended to buy Sam's agonizing delay, not much aided by an adequate but superficial performance from country club golf pro–handsome Pine.)

Alex Kurtzman, making his directorial debut, has previously worked with his People Like Us co-writer Roberto Orci on a bevy of blockbusters (Transformers, Star Trek) and knows how to tickle a crowd, here granting D'Addario lots of world-weary, little-old-man wisecracks toward that end. Kurtzman and Orci deserve credit for defying cliché, raining out the ultimate gratification of what might be another rom-com courtship between Pine and Banks and instead creating a movie that's overcast with incestuous dramatic irony. Ultimately, however, People Like Us is infected with the “life-affirming” pox; this means making a narrative priority of redeeming everyone before adequately explaining them. —Nick Pinkerton

PEOPLE LIKE US | Directed by Alex Kurtzman | Written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jody Lambert | Touchstone/Disney

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