Away We Go
At the Michigan
Focus Features

Courtesy of Focus Features

2.5 out of 5 stars

Sometimes movies just try too hard. “Away We Go” falls into this category. It wants to be a road trip movie — a moving tale of growing up and taking on responsibility — but its attempts at comedy get in the way. This back and forth between life lessons and faulty humor grows pretty exhausting and proves difficult to keep up with.

The film follows Verona De Tessant (Maya Rudolph, TV’s “Saturday Night Live”) and Burt Farlander (John Krasinski, TV’s “The Office”), an unmarried couple who discover they’re soon-to-be parents. The two travel across the country to find a home to raise their unborn child. This naturally leads to wacky and poignant adventures as the couple re-connects with family and old friends. These adventures range from exceedingly silly to absolutely profound.

But “Away We Go” has many tedious scenes and pays far less attention to what the audience actually wants to watch. For example, Maggie Gyllenhaal (“The Dark Knight”) does an incredible job, providing the film with its biggest laughs, but she is given very limited screen time.

Then there is the scene where De Tessant and Farlander visit their friend Munch Garnett (Melanie Lynskey, “Sweet Home Alabama”) in Montreal. Garnett’s inability to conceive provides the film with some of its most heartbreaking moments. But what the audience is meant to make of this is left unclear. The segment illustrates the biggest issue with the film: Nothing ever quite connects. It’s like watching a few different movies at once.

Despite the film’s disjointedness, Krasinski and Rudolph deliver convincing performances. Rudolph has proven herself to be a solid comedic actress, but in “Away We Go” the audience gets to see a new, grown-up and serious side of her. It suits her, and from the very beginning we accept her as a serious actress. Krasinski has already proven to TV audiences that he can handle being both goofy and earnest. This balance translates nicely onto the silver screen. These talented actors make a believable couple, reacting to relatable real-world problems.

Director Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”) has clearly studied the art of making an independent film and makes sure to cover all the bases. There’s long, ironic shots of the main characters set to quirky music and clever title cards separating the action — it all feels very much like “Juno,” had it been set ten years later.

There is nothing wrong with emulating a popular independent film when making your own. After all, filmmakers imitate those they admire quite often (i.e. everything Quentin Tarantino has ever made). It’s unfortunate that Mendes, who has proven himself to be so talented in his other films, doesn’t have anything new to bring to the table.

“Away We Go” might be thin and disconnected, but it’s not absent of charm. With a stellar cast and some comedic potential, it has many elements needed to make a quality movie, but in the end falls short. Perhaps next time Mendes lends his hand to an independent film, he will use his own talents rather than draw from those of others.

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