Un-humble home

<i>The girl is about to go full-on Carrie at this party.</i>

The girl is about to go full-on Carrie at this party.

Rated 2.0

The first warning sign comes early in Home Again. Alice Kinney (Reese Witherspoon) is driving her daughters—earnest insecure teenager Isabel (Lola Flanery) and precocious tyke Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield)—to their new school. “I’m feeling exhausted, hopeless,” Isabel chirps, “and I don’t enjoy the things that I once loved.” Alice gives her a sidelong look. “Where are you getting this from?” And Rosie pipes up: “From the Zoloft commercial. Obviously.”

Anyone who would put that clunker into the mouth of a towheaded 8-year-old is truly without shame. She’ll throw the cheapest jokes in the book at you, then hold up a cute kid as a shield when you reach for the tomatoes.

The “she” in this case is Hallie Meyers-Shyer. She’s the daughter of Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer, the erstwhile husband-and-wife team. Together and separately, Meyers and Shyer have been responsible for some of the slickest, shallowest, least funny and most overrated comedies of the last thirty years: What Women Want, Father of the Bride I and II, Something’s Gotta Give. Their formula was a simple one: Write a script about the problems of upper-crust beautiful people, make it glib rather than clever, coy rather than subtle. Hire the kind of talent it needs but doesn’t deserve (Steve Martin and Diane Keaton are reliable; if your timing is right you might even get Meryl Streep or Robert De Niro), and give it all a bright, spotless gleam that makes the Hallmark Channel look like film noir.

The sins of the parents have been visited upon the daughter in her first picture as writer-director. Her story is one perhaps only a child of Hollywood aristocracy would think ordinary people could identify with.

Witherspoon’s Alice, recently separated from her music-executive husband Austen (Michael Sheen), has moved with her daughters from New York back to Beverly Hills, into the mansion of her legendary-filmmaker father and her retired-movie star mother (Candice Bergen).

Out with friends to celebrate her 40th birthday, Alice is chatted up by 20-something Harry (Pico Alexander), an aspiring director in town with his actor brother Teddy (Nat Wolff) and their writer pal George (Jon Rudnitsky) to raise money to turn their artsy student short into a feature. Strapped for cash and evicted from their fleabag motel room, they wind up moving into Alice’s guest house. All three develop boy-crushes on Alice, though only Harry scores with her.

Right on cue, a penitent Austen flies in from New York, eager to reconcile. Other complications develop with the predictable monotony of a Swiss clock. We needn’t detail them here; you’ll know them before they happen.

Witherspoon (the closest thing we have to a 21st century Diane Keaton) buttresses the proceedings by deploying every drop of her personal charm.

Come to think of it, maybe it’s not the Oscar for Walk the Line that puts Reese Witherspoon in the same class as Streep, De Niro and Diane Keaton. Maybe it’s having to carry a script from the Shyer/Meyers/Meyers-Shyer cinema dynasty.