From this summer's ultrafeatherweight division comes "Post Grad," a PG-13 comedy so predictable and formulaic it could have been assembled by marketing software.
From the perky lead character (Alexis Bledel of "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants") to the quirky supporting characters, to the autopilot plot, this is utterly sanitized moviemaking, smoothed and homogenized to maximize demographic appeal.
In a strange way, this is also the movie's only real strength. It's utterly harmless, perfectly digestible and breathtakingly bland. It occurred to me that if my grandma, dad, 15-year-old nephew and parish priest all came to visit, this is the movie I'd want to take them to. It's desperate to please.
The gist: Graduation day has arrived for Ryden Malby, the most earnest and wide-eyed college senior the world has seen since Reese Witherspoon went legally blonde. Ryden loves books and has her heart set on a job at a Los Angeles publishing house. Her BFF, strictly platonic, is Adam (Zack Gilford), a sensitive would-be musician who orbits Ryden with puppy dog eyes and unrequited love.
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Also pulling for Ryden is her inevitably quirky family, including mom and dad (Jane Lynch and Michael Keaton, both much better than they're obligated to be; grandma Maureen (Carol Burnett) and kid brother Hunter (Bobby Coleman). "Little Miss Sunshine" set the modern template for this eccentric family schtick, and "Post Grad" cheerfully employs it, shaving off all the rough edges.
Alas, Ryden's job with the publishing house falls through, and she's forced to move back in with the family. She soon notices new neighbor David Santiago (Rodrigo Santoro), who's hard to ignore with his sexy voice, expensive eyeglasses and overall Latin hotness.
Will Ryden choose David over Adam? Will she eventually land the job? Will the family embarrass her at critical moments, then reaffirm their bond by coming through for her in the end?
Here's a movie that's pretty much impossible to spoil, as you'll see each plot point coming half an hour before it arrives. It has the kind of script that doesn't trust you to deduce the moral of the story, so supplies it via a series of declarative statements, just as the music swells at the start of the third act.
Ah, well. Despite all this, director Vicky Jenson ("Shrek") and the cast do provide some nice laughs along the way. Watch for the cat funeral, the solemn 40-ouncer malt liquor tribute, and the sly nod to that original post-grad film, "The Graduate." ("Plastics!")
The best laughs, in fact, are usually in the corner of the frame or tossed out as throwaway lines, a clue that the excellent supporting actors were likely punching up their scenes on set. Burnett, Lynch and Keaton seem to be having a particularly good time. At the center of it all, Bledel is entirely adequate, inoffensive, likeable and cute as several dozen buttons.
"Post Grad" is good-hearted, consumer-safe, assembly-line moviemaking. But that's just not good enough in a world of $10 tickets and $7 popcorn. If you really want to see a comedy about 20-somethings -- about love and life and all things beautiful -- go see the joyful and inventive "500 Days of Summer" instead.