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Post Grad
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by Peter Sobczynski

"You've Come A Long Way, Baby--Now Go Back!"
1 stars

At one point in the new comedy “Post-Grad,” a character is described as being weird and someone comes to his defense by saying “Weird indicates a creative force.” If that sentiment is true, then this film must be the most normal and straight-edged thing imaginable. This is a terrible, terrible movie that almost seems to have been custom-designed to play in empty multiplexes during the dog days of summer when its theoretical target audience is too busy getting ready to go back to school to even notice its arrival (and I suspect that a good number of those who actually do buy tickets for it are underage kids hoping to sneak into the infinitely superior “District 9” or “Inglourious Basterds”). It lacks any trace elements of wit or intelligence, it is such a bald-faced rip-off of the not-exactly immortal “Reality Bites” that I presume the only thing preventing a massive lawsuit is that no one wants to publicly admit to having seen either film and it wraps its story up in such an offensive, condescending and outdated manner that the entire project comes across as being as edgy and thought-provoking as a Sarah Palin campaign rally, though with nowhere near the same amount of laughs.

Alexis Bledel stars as Ryden Malby (see what I mean about the ham-fisted “Reality Bites” parallels--have you ever in you life known someone working the name “Ryden” outside of a bad fantasy novel?), a go-getter whose life plan since childhood has been to graduate from college and instantly land the high-powered publishing industry job (and accompanying accoutrements) of her dreams. Alas, when that dream job fails to pan out for her, she is forced to move back home with her family--wacky dad Walter (Michael Keaton), wacky mom Carmella (Jane Lynch), wacky grandmother Maureen (Carol Burnett) and wacky little brother Hunter (Bobby Coleman)--while trying to find some job that will stand up to her high standards. Of course, such jobs aren’t that forthcoming and so she spends most of her time loafing around the house while feeling sorry for herself. And yet, even that grows a little tiresome for someone as resolutely self-involved as Ryden and so she is able to fill up some more of her free time by creating a romantic triangle that finds her being simultaneously pursued by longtime platonic pal Adam (Zach Gilford), one of those slacker types who is trying to decide between going to law school at Columbia or pursuing a musical career crooning tunes that sound like covers of the gibberish Ethan Hawke sang in “Reality Bites,” and David (Rodrigo Santoro), the hunky older guy-next-door who claims to admire the artistic spirit but who cheerfully conforms (except when he wants to impress the hottie) by making ridiculous infomercials for guacamole makers. If you are on pins and needles as to how all of this gets resolved, we shall get to that in a minute.

Since just the mere act of recollecting the events that comprise “Post-Grad” is enough to set my not-inconsiderable gorge to full-out rise, I will be brief in lodging my objections to the film. The first major problem is the inescapable fact that Ryden--and let me just point out once again how goddamn annoying that name is--is one of the least interesting characters to appear on a movie screen in a while. She is a whiny, self-absorbed, personality-free drip from start to finish and the only thing worse than that is the film’s dogged insistence that we are supposed to somehow find her winsome and charming despite these minor character flaws--how are we supposed to root for her to somehow overcome her problems and realize her dreams when her mere presence inspires the kind of reaction normally associated with fingernails on the blackboard. (Bledel doesn’t help matters much with her sing-song voice and the complete lack of big-screen charisma that she demonstrates here.) Perhaps recognizing that her main character’s personal and professional plights were somewhat less than compelling, first-time screenwriter Kelly Fremon has tried to pad things out by adding in any number of strange subplots and diversions--Adam’s conflict with his father (J,K. Simmons), Walter’s bizarre get-rich-quick scheme involving stolen belt buckles that lands him in jail, Grandma’s obsession with buying a coffin for her not-so-impending demise and the little brother’s strange obsession with entering a local soap-box derby that, despite his pleas that all the neighborhood kids are doing it, can only cough up maybe four competitors when we finally see it--but they are just as pointless, unfunny and unnecessary as the main storyline. Along the same lines, perhaps realizing that Bledel, lovely though she may be, doesn’t possess enough personality to carry a movie on her own, director Vicky Jenson (making her live-action debut after co-helming the likes of “Shrek” and “Shark Tale”) has recruited a strong supporting cast and then pretty much squanders their talents on sub-sitcom material. For example, I am as big of a fan of Michael Keaton as anyone and I wish that he would make the big-screen comeback that he so completely deserves. That said, if there is one thing that I don’t want to see a performer as quick and electric as him doing in a movie (besides transforming into an anthropomorphic snowman, of course) is playing a doofy dad indulging in lame-ass hi-jinks involving stolen belt buckles and dead cats--isn’t that the reason that we are still keeping Chevy Chase around?

That said, the worst thing about “Post-Grad” is the way that it wraps itself up and to fully explore that element, I fear that I will have to give away the ending, not that I can imagine that anyone particularly cares at this point. As it turns out, Ryden winds up landing her dream publishing job after all when it turns out that the girl who originally snared it--her arch-rival since grade school--was fired for spending more time trying to forward her own career than serving as a meek and acquiescent assistant. However, Ryden is all bummed out because the faux-Ethan Hawke guy decided to go to law school in New York even after she made the profound gesture of apologizing to him via a “borrowed” ice cream truck. (Please don’t ask.) And since we all know that a woman’s life cannot be complete unless she has herself a fella, Ryden impulsively quits the job that she has been striving for her entire life and moves to New York with no job and no prospects just so that she can be the dope’s girlfriend. On its own, this conclusion is absolutely ridiculous and strangely dated--if it didn’t work when Diana Ross tried it in “Mahogany” 35 years ago, what hope does it have of working now--but when you consider that the target audience for this film, at least the non-pervy one, is teenage girls, the notion of putting forth a film in which the implicit message is that women who are interested in careers are either monsters or fools in need of a man to set them straight is borderline offensive. On its surface, “Post-Grad” may seem to have some kind of go-girl spirit but at its core, it has all the depth of a Virginia Slims and is even worse for you in the end.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=18139&reviewer=389
originally posted: 08/23/09 00:44:55
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  21-Aug-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 12-Jan-2010


  DVD: 12-Jan-2010

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