Starring Alexis Bledel, Zach Gilford, Michael Keaton, Carol Burnett. Directed by Vicky Jenson. Rated PG-13 for sexual situations and brief strong language. 89 minutes.
Movies released at the end of the summer tend to fall into three categories. First are the films being positioned for the fall season with an early release date. Movies like “Julie & Julia” are intended to play for weeks and weeks to come. Second are the sleepers, put out in the hope of an unexpected breakout hit. This summer’s sleeper seems to be “District 9.” Then there are the rest – movies like POST GRAD.
These are the place fillers, taking up screens and possibly picking up some dollars in the ebbing weeks of the season. The movies may be lightly entertaining or they may be bombs. Their chief virtue is that they are something new prior to Labor Day weekend. They will be on their way to the afterlife of DVD and cable in short order, which is where they belonged in the first place.
“Post Grad” is a mild sitcom about recent college graduate Ryden Malby (Alexis Bledel) who discovers life isn’t going according to plan. She doesn’t get her dream job. She has to move back in with her parents. And her romantic life consists of her friend Adam (Zach Gilford) who loves her but whom she treats as “just a friend.”
Director Vicky Jenson tells this story by-the-numbers. It would be too easy to say her work as a director of animation has influenced her. Her credits include “Shrek” and “Shark Tale,” so make of that what you will. Still there’s definitely a sense here of being in a world that has only a coincidental connection to reality.
The film seems to go down a checklist of clichés: There’s the wacky grandmother (Carol Burnett). The weird younger brother (Bobby Coleman). The exotic neighbor who is a potential love interest (Rodrigo Santoro). The hapless dad with get-rich-quick schemes (Michael Keaton). The acerbic but level-headed mom (Jane Lynch).
Having completed rounding the bases (or getting her ticket punched, depending on which metaphor you prefer), Jenson gets Ryden to learn important “life lessons.” If you want to keep score these include “your family matters” and “don’t neglect your life for your job.” There’s also the suggestion that really obnoxious, competitive people eventually get their come-uppance, which makes it clear we’re firmly in fantasyland. As for those who are expecting Ryden to finally wise up about Adam by the end of the film, you’ve been looking ahead.
The talented cast here makes more of this slight material than should be expected, which is why the film is lightly diverting even if we’ve seen it all before in other movies. Bledel is able to act earnest without being grating, and her blue eyes certainly look great on the big screen. The characters are so underdeveloped, though, that when Burnett gets to deliver a truly funny line you almost wish it had been saved for a better movie.
“Post Grad” is like mashed potatoes without gravy, vanilla ice cream without syrup, seltzer without flavor. Such things can be satisfying in the moment, but you probably don’t even remember having them the next day.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Brookline.