Movie Review: Krasinski ” finds heart, and low-hanging comic fruit in “The Hollars”

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John Krasinski finds his way back on the big screen, both in front of and behind the camera, in the sentimental and sweet but obvious and sit-commie “The Hollars,” a melodrama about an amusingly dysfunctional family brought together by terminal illness.

That’s what drags son John (Krasinski) home to rural Ohio. Mom (Margo Martindale) has a brain tumor.He’s an aspiring artist and graphic novelist (comic book designer) failing in New York, about to become a father. His rich girlfriend (Anna Kendrick) is close to term.

But back home, Mom’s bad news sends Dad (Richard Jenkins) into a weepy shame spiral. Dad so badly misread Mom’s symptoms that he told her it was her weight.

“He sent me to Jenny Craig!”

Brother Ron (Sharlto Copley) is living out his own train wreck, stalking his ex-wife and two daughters, regretting the divorce ever since she (Ashley Dyke) took up with a new, better man, a handsome and tolerant youth pastor (Josh Groban) at church.

A better title for this James C. Strouse script, which Krasinski took by the horns and got made, would have been “Piling On.” Troubles pile up at John’s feet from the moment he shows up in the hospital. Dad’s HVAC business is bankrupt. Ron used to work there, but was fired, and now lives in his parents’ basement.

Mom is wondering if she wasted her life. Even Mom’s nurse has a beef with John. He, apparently, is the fellow who married and had a child with John’s ex, played by the winsome Mary Elizabeth Winstead. And Jason, played by Charlie Day at his most Charlie Day (screechy and annoying) is worried she still has a thing for John.

Which she, of course, does.

That’s a HUGE knock against “The Hollars,” its screaming obviousness. John takes a moment to collect his thoughts at the Ol’ Swimmin’ Hole. He climbs on the old tire swing, and…you know the rest.

The casting is so on-the-nose that pairing up the great pros Martindale and Jenkins has no potential for surprise, though both have moments that pay off. That on-the-nose business goes for Krasinski himself, who settles into the rhythms of “The Office,” doing the whole sweeter than/maybe smarter than his surroundings bit he did so well there.

Sit-commie.

The wildcard here is the South African Copley, who seems miscast and out of his comic depth, but who is consistently out-there and hilarious in pathetic and predictable (for the character) ways.

There’s always something to be said for a comedy that errs on the side of “heart,” and “The Hollars” has that — warm moments, a few genuine tears, a spell just starting to be cast when something silly comes up to jolt the works back into the realm of comedy.

Randall Park is pleasantly nonplussed as the doctor who has to deal with Ron’s inane “Asian” questions.

“What martial arts do you practice?”

“None.”

Jenkins has a lovely, offbeat moment of song, an established tradition in romantic comedies since time immemorial — or at least since “My Best Friend’s Wedding.”

hollars2And Kendrick shows up to amp up the pathos and throw paranoid-pregnant-woman hilarity at the looming tragedy.

It doesn’t really skip by, but Krasinski keeps the squishiness to a minimum and lets his co-stars land the laughs even if “The Hollars” are nothing to shout about.

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MPAA Rating:PG-13 for brief language and some thematic material

Cast: John Krasinski, Margo Martindale, Anna Kendrick, Richard Jenkins, Sharlto Copley, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Charlie Day, Randall Park
Credits: Directed by ,John Krasinski, script by James C. Strouse . A Sony Classics release.

Running time: 1:28

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