Every move Sam Harper (Chris Pine) makes at the beginning of People Like Us is cunningly calculated. First, he constructs a ruse to miss a cross-country flight for his father’s funeral. When met with a deservedly chilly reception from his widowed mother (Michelle Pfeiffer), he whips out a canned lie so he can flee back to his corporate sales job the next day. See, Sam is morally bankrupt, and were it not for Pine’s unabashed charisma, he’d be absolutely repugnant.
When the prodigal son is tasked with delivering $150,000 to a half-sister he didn’t know existed, he selfishly holds onto the dough. Instead, he stalks down-on-her-luck sibling Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) and her troubled son, intertwining himself in their lives until he sees fit to reveal the truth of their shared parentage. This “we share DNA” reveal and subsequent redemption could unfold in 20 minutes. Instead, it takes two hours, making People Like Us as frustratingly calculated as its protagonist.
The exploration of this family’s messy ties is all too neat and overworked, preventing the movie from reaching true tear-jerking potential. Still, sentimental moments push through the Hollywood patina. A solid cast elicits bona fide emotion from a by-the-book script without indulging in too much schmaltz. If only the superfluously delayed climax followed suit.