Tuesday, November 21, 2017
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'Home Again' with Reese Witherspoon is so bad this critic walked out

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This week, I followed my instincts and evacuated during an evolving disaster.

I walked out of Home Again, Reese Witherspoon's embarrassing favor for a friend. Home Again is the screenwriting and directing debut of Hallie Meyers-Shyer, daughter of filmmakers Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer, whose combined successes range from Private Benjamin to Baby Boom to Something's Gotta Give. Meyers pushed the script on Witherspoon, an Oscar winner too nice to say no.

Thirty minutes of Home Again is enough to prove talent isn't hereditary. We already know alleged comedies that focus on how tough Hollywood lives can be are woefully unrelatable to anyone else. Meyers-Shyer writes flatly and directs without purpose, an unreasonable facsimile of her parents' fluff formulas.

Witherspoon plays Alice Kinney, daughter of a divorced filmmaking team bearing close resemblances to Meyers and Shyer. Her mother Lillian is played by Candice Bergen, which makes sense. Her father Austen is played by Michael Sheen, which doesn't since he wasn't born when Bergen was already a star and, in fact, is only seven years older than Witherspoon.

I mention this because Bergen and Sheen are the most authentic pieces in Meyers-Shyer's sputtering joke machine. Certainly not Witherspoon, consigned to eye-roll mugging and whines unbecoming an Oscar winner. Absolutely not the three young, aspiring filmmakers Lillian invites to move in with Alice while pitching their project around town. Because that's what Hollywood moms do when their egos are stroked by opportunists begging to hear more on-set memories.

In short order, Alice almost hooks up with one of her boarders, Harry (Pico Alexander, a mannequin in training). Reversing romantic age roles is a staple of Meyers' films that her daughter can't resist or perform nearly as well. Witherspoon is much too fine an actor to dither and sigh as Home Again requires her to do. Alice's two daughters, prop kids from central casting, don't stoke the actor's maternal warmth or the laughs Meyers-Shyer thinks they'll get.

Everything about Home Again until I could stand no more is trust fund narcissism in sitcom disguise. Striking out on her own creative course would make Meyers-Shyer's failure seem nobler but no less annoying. As it stands, Home Again would be a tolerable effort only on home video while outside a storm rages.

Then pray for a power outage.

Contact Steve Persall at spersall@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

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