by Kristin Dreyer Kramer|
As a former member of the National Honor Society and the Model U. N., I think its fair to say that I know a thing or two about smart people. And after years of close, personal research into the matter, I can honestly say that some of the smart people Ive known were also some of the stupidest people Ive ever met. And that, my friends, is what Smart People is all about.
You see, the Wetherhold family is a pretty smart-stupid family. Lawrence (Dennis Quaid) is a brilliant college professor. Hes also an arrogant, pompous jerk who doesnt know a thing about his studentsnot even their names. Among his students and colleagues, there isnt a single person who likes him. And following closely in Lawrences footsteps is his 17-year-old daughter, Vanessa (Ellen Page), a member of the National Honor Society and the Model U. N. (go figure, huh?). She doesnt have any friends, and all she really cares about is getting a perfect score on her SATs.
Everything changes for the Wetherholds, however, when Lawrence sustains a head injury. He cant drive for six months, so his worthless adopted brother, Chuck (Thomas Haden Church), decides to move in and help out. And as Lawrence tries to deal with his brother, he also begins an awkward relationship with Janet (Sarah Jessica Parker), an ER doctor with some issues of her own.
Smart People is a truly likeable movie about a bunch of not-so-likeable people. The majority of the characters (though especially Lawrence and Vanessa, of course) are socially awkward and totally clueless in their own special way. And though youll find them extremely frustrating, you cant help but feel sorry for them at the same time. Because while they tend to push people away with their superior attitudes, theyre really desperately in need of some kind of human connection that they just cant seem to make. No matter how impressive their vocabularies, they dont know a thing about human beings. And though theyd never admit it, the most worthless member of their family is also probably the smartest one of them all.
Clever and thoughtfulyet written with a healthy dose of witSmart People is all about the characters. And, fortunately, those characters were well cast. Quaid and Church both do a wonderful job of playing lovably unlikable characters. And Ellen Page plays pretty much the same quick-witted, smart aleck misfit (only with an uglier wardrobe) who made audiences fall in love with Juno.
In fact, while Smart People is a bit deeper and more grown-up than Juno, both movies have the same quick-witted edginess to them. So if you enjoyed Juno, theres a pretty good chance that youll appreciate Smart People, too.
And if you were ever a member of the National Honor Society, this ones a must-see.
The DVD release of Smart People is pretty much what youd expect from a clever grown-up comedyit covers the basics without adding a whole bunch of flash or unnecessary extras. There arent any interactive crosswords or wacky animations herejust the standard features.
On the DVD, youll find a making-of feature (called The Smartest People), which gives viewers a closer look at the movies production, as well as its characters. There are also nine deleted scenessome of which were definitely cut for a reason, while others actually help to develop the characters just a bit more. Theres also a blooper reel, entitled Not So Smart. And, finally, theres an audio commentary with writer Mark Poirier and director Noam Murrowho, though they insert a few interesting tidbits along the way, arent exactly the most thrilling or expressive of guys (which is probably why theyre generally behind the camera, not in front of it).
Smart People is just a smart movie, plain and simpleand the DVDs special features are equally plain and simple. If youre looking for a clever and thoughtful film, youll enjoy it with or without the extra features. But if you prefer DVDs crammed with flashy extras well, this probably really isnt your kind of movie anyway.