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This Is Where I Leave You

A season’s worth of sitcom plots in two hours

© Warner Bros. Pictures When their father dies, four grown siblings return to their childhood home for a week, along with their over-sharing mother and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens.

The patriarch of the Altman family, an atheist, had one deathbed request: that his family sit Shiva for him. His four surprised children pack up their families and their issues to spend the seven days mourning as one big dysfunctional family.
    Matriarch Hillary (Jane Fonda: The Newsroom), a therapist who mined her children’s adolescent transgressions for book material, is thrilled to have her family united. The kids are less happy.
    Eldest son Paul (Corey Stoll: The Strain) has taken over the family business and is struggling to conceive a child with his baby-crazed wife. Middle child Judd (Jason Bateman: Bad Words) has just lost his job and his cheating wife. Wendy (Tina Fey: Muppets Most Wanted) is trapped in an unhappy marriage and consumed with motherhood. Youngest Phillip (Adam Driver: Girls), is a screw-up who dates his therapist and shirks every responsibility.
    In close quarters, the Altmans feud, laugh and heal — not because of any earned character development but because that’s what the protagonists do in movies of this sort.
    “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” Tolstoy wrote, and it may have been true in the age of Anna Karenina. Now This Is Where I Leave You proves that unhappiness has become a cliché.
    All these Altmans are stereotypes. Paul believes that he’s inherited his father’s authority. Phillip is the perpetual baby. Wendy is the sardonic sister. Judd is the everyman bewildered by crazy relatives. If these characters seem familiar, it’s because you’ve seen them in Modern Family, Parenthood, August: Osage County, The Royal Tenenbaums and many more.
    The experience is much like watching a condensed sitcom with a season’s worth of plots crammed into a two-hour package. Director Shawn Levy (The Internship) is content to film the script this style. He also misuses the brilliantly talented women he’s cast, relegating them to wisecracking side characters who help the men resolve their issues.
    Performances give this dull slog its only fun.
    Bateman works overtime to make Judd, the protagonist, a relatable character. Fey, an experienced comedian, finds the funny beat in each line. Who wouldn’t want to watch a sitcom starring Jane Fonda? Always game for wry readings, she makes her matriarch funny. Driver is the breakout star of the film, using his manic energy to wring laughs out of ridiculous situations and lines.
    Because of them, This Is Where I Leave You is an entertaining diversion.

Good Comedy • R • 103 mins.