Enchanting and repelling as this is, it manages to do something new with quite a tired old format. Katherine Heigl is becoming a Katharine Hepburn-like talent, with a sense of comedy timing that’s unbeatable, at her best. Ashton Kutcher is a good match for her here. He is no Spencer Tracy – although he is called Spencer in this movie – but he has charm and good looks Tracy lacked.
The story is winsome and annoying, in equal measures. Jen (Heigl) has just been dumped and her parents have taken her off to Nice in France to take her mind off things. Jen is a little embarrassed about this turn of events and pretends her father is a Russian pervert. The Nice scenes work perfectly, but then I think Nice is one of the best places in the world and I often dream of moving there.
A discordant note is struck quite early. The kicker is that Spencer (Kutcher) is a killer and he’s got a little job to do before he can be free to woo Jen. The underwater scenes are very obviously not filmed in the Mediterranean, but in the Caribbean. Believe me, I am lucky enough to have significant experience of both oceans, and it’s just too obvious. Where is continuity?
For those who share my predilection for things going bang and exploding, there’s some great stuff to ease your mind away from the many little continuity issues. Then Spencer is free to woo Jen, and they move to an “ordinary life” in America. They move to a particularly gorgeous Atlanta, Georgia suburb, where hardly anyone has a southern US accent. Erm, continuity? Really, if you have ever been to Georgia, you know where you are and people sound wrong.
Okay, suspend disbelief and just enjoy, right? And there is lots that is great, original and good fun here. The parents are played by Tom Selleck – still loving that iconic moustache – and Catherine O’Hara, who is am amazing comedienne and woefully underused here. Martin Mull, as Holbrook, is stll terrific after all these years, but he is wasted too. There is just too little of him for any of his shiny understated comic genius to shine through.
It gets a little slow, in the middle. The kids at the Stratford Picture House started chatting and using their phones, just like their parents. It has a 12 certificate, but I fear the younger ones may have found the adult themes and quite disturbing violence a little too much, as one mother muttered.
But it builds again to a nice finish with all the plots being resolved. There are echoes of the Brangelina “Mr and Mrs Smith” and the combination of romcom and government agency killer story bringing some fresh air to both genres. Director Richard Luketic keeps things moving, for the majority of the film and it’s an enjoyable 100 minutes.
If you like Heigl and Kutcher or have a soft spot for Selleck (I do), it’s fun. I liked “The Ugly Truth” a lot and this has flashes of that, but lacks the wit in favour of a flawed populism, combined with some worrying violence. But, at least, nobody is traumatised or needs therapy. In these pop psychology times, that’s a blessing.
This is my 60th post on this site, so I thought I’d blow out a candle. Thank you for all the great responses, by email and as comments. I don’t blog on everything I see – we will pretend “Tooth Fairy” never happened – but I am grateful to my growing band of subscribers and readers, who are asking me to write my top ten ever and a special piece on old movies.