Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski are parents-to-be on a road trip to find a place to raise a child in "Away We Go." (Focus Features)
Despite its title, "Away We Go" doesn't really go anywhere in particular. It just wanders about, making small observations on life, and then finally settles down. It's hardly painful, but it's not exactly thrilling, either.
John Krasinski ("The Office") and Maya Rudolph ("Saturday Night Live") star as Burt and Verona, a couple expecting their first child who don't know where they want to raise their family. So despite Verona's bulging belly, they go off on a road trip.
This gives writers Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida an easy vehicle for observation and commentary as our couple bounces from one locale to another, encountering old friends and acquaintances. Actually, it's all a bit too easy, sort of like watching a couple of characters move from one sitcom to another and then another.
They meet up with a middle-class American nightmare family in Arizona (Allison Janney, Jim Gaffigan), drop in on a nutsy feminist in Madison, Wis. (Maggie Gyllenhaal), find sad stability in Canada, a broken marriage in Florida. All the while, they're wondering if they're "losers," despite the fact that it pretty much looks like everybody's a loser.
This is not the sort of film you expect from director Sam Mendes ("American Beauty," "Revolutionary Road"), whose middle name might as well be Heavyweight. It's light-as-a-feather, keep-the-pace-going stuff, and he pulls it off well.
But still, is there some center here? Both Krasinski and especially Rudolph -- why isn't this woman in more films -- are amusing as light eccentrics, even if it's hard to make out any real passion fires burning.
But they're hardly the sort of characters an audience is going to fall in love with, and the writers don't offer any clear idea of what they're searching for. Inspiration, safety, beautiful landscapes? True, the couple may not know, but it would be nice if there was some sort of clue.
So, instead, the film bounces back and forth between broadly drawn characters (Janney's braying, bawdy character is too loud to be believed) and sudden glimpses of real life (Paul Schneider's nuanced take on an abandoned husband) with no apparent intent in mind.
Yes, of course this is a wandering film about people who haven't settled on who they are, and that absolves it of certain indulgences, but not all. At some point even a wandering film has to get to the point.
The greatest sin of "Away We Go" may be that it's merely pleasant, a quirky-light throwaway sort of film. And in a season of screaming blockbusters it hopes you'll admire its modesty. Problem is, there's such a thing as being too modest.
Maggie Gyllenhaal, from left, John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph star in the ... (Focus Features)
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