MOVIE BUFF-ET: Witherspoon’s latest ‘Home Again’ has a winning sit-com feel

Open Road Films

Light as popcorn and sugary as cotton candy, Reese Witherspoon’s latest rom-com “Home Again” has enough charm and craft to be a solid counterprogramming option to the other spooky and weird movies filling theaters this week.

“It” will likely scare up more big business once again this week at the box office after raking in $123 million last week and garnering great word of mouth. Director Darren Aronofsky’s neo-gothic chiller “Mother!” also cranks up the weird quotient.

New In Local Theaters

  • American Assassin (R) 1hr. 51 min.
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  • Mother! (R) (R) 2 hr. 1 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Springdale Cinema Grill, Malco Rogers Towne)
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The adventure film “American Assassin” starring Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, and Taylor Kitsch has the best shot of any new release of knocking “It” off the top of the box office chart, but if you are looking for something a bit more low key, then “Home Again” might hit the spot.

After overcoming a bit of trepidation, I have to admit, the movie entertained me, but then again, I am a sucker for Witherspoon and romantic comedies in general.

The film is the first effort of director Hallie Myers-Shyer, and it almost seems like an extremely well made pilot for a situation comedy. If that were the case, I would probably tune in to the next episode to follow the exploits of this extremely charming group of characters.

Witherspoon is a recently separated mother of two girls who has returned to her hometown of Los Angeles from New York to live in her deceased father’s old home, or should I say mansion. The opulent manor and grounds, complete with a guesthouse, befits the stature her dad, who was an Academy Award-winning director.

Uncomfortable about the move and the effect it might have on her daughters, Alice is stressed to the point of bursting with the move and with opening her own interior design business.

To celebrate her 40th birthday and release a little steam, Witherspoon goes out clubbing with her friends where they meet three 20-something aspiring filmmakers chasing their dreams in Hollywood but with little cash in their pockets. The aspiring director Harry (Pico Alexander) hits on Witherspoon, and a rather quick connection is made.

The party continues at Alice’s house and through a daffy set of circumstances Harry, his actor friend Teddy (Nat Wolf), and screenwriter friend George (Jon Rudnitsky) wind up moving into the aforementioned guest house at the insistence of Alice’s mother (Candice Bergen).

See what I mean about the sit-com feel.

The movie could have taken some weird turns at this point, but it only becomes even more charming. The trio ends up being really good guys, who quickly bond with Alice’s two children Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Ede Grace Redfield). They miss their father, Austen (Michael Sheen), a music producer who still lives in New York, but the three guys dote on them, playing pseudo daddy, while still hustling to find work in Hollywood.

When Austen learns that three men are living on the grounds with Alice and his girls, it becomes not only a priority but also an emergency for him to visit, and of course his presence ratchets up the tension to 11.

“Home Again” was a pleasant diversion for me, but one I’d recommend waiting to see on home video, despite the pleasant feeling it gave me. It’s not the type of movie that would suffer from playing on the small screen.

(PG-13) 1 hr. 37 min.
Grade: B

Classic Corner

E.T. The Extraterrestrial

In conjunction with Fathom Events, the Malco Razorback Theater offers two special showings of “E.T. The Extraterrestrial” at 2 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday.

The 1982 blockbuster that introduced Reese’s Pieces and actress Drew Barrymore as well as dethroned Star Wars as the top-grossing picture of the time tells the story of preteen Elliot (Henry Thomas), who finds an alien hiding in the shed of his backyard.

Elliot, of course, takes in the little bug-eyed creature with an elongated neck and glowing digit unbeknownst to his mother (Dee Wallace), and hijinks and adventure ensue.

The film’s magic remains potent 35 years later with all the credit going to the team of Steven Spielberg and Melissa Mathison. They developed the story together and then breathed life into the classic as director and screenwriter. Nominated for nine Oscars, “E.T. The Extraterrestrial” took home four for Best Score, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Special Effects.

Beauty and the Beast

Also making the rounds this week on the big screen at AMC Fiesta Square is Disney’s 1991 original animated version of “Beauty and the Beast.”

While the live-action remake of the musical fantasy dominated the box office in the spring, making more than $1.2 billion worldwide, I prefer the charm of Disney’s animated version. Not only is the animation gorgeous, but also the signing voices soar to levels not quite achieved in the live-action version.

No doubt, the story is familiar to most as the lovely but peculiar bookworm Belle (Paige O’Hara) falls in love with her captor the Beast (Robby Benson) thanks to the help of the Beasts’ anthropomorphic servants Mrs. Potts (Angela Lansbury), Lumiere (Jerry Orbach), and Cogsworth (David Ogden Stiers).

Richard White’s deep bass voice is both intimidating and hilarious as Belle’s obnoxious and overbearing suitor Gaston, who seeks to “kill the Beast” to get back at Belle for shunning is intentions.

All these years later, the movie remains a treat for fans of animation, musicals, and great storytelling.