THE director of American Beauty, one of the most impressive cinematic debuts in recent times, is back with what looks like a typical indie romantic comedy (see: Garden State and Juno). The cast doesn t look, on paper, as annoying as a good majority of th


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THE director of American Beauty, one of the most impressive cinematic debuts in recent times, is back with what looks like a typical indie romantic comedy (see: Garden State and Juno).

The cast doesn't look, on paper, as annoying as a good majority of this new crop of acoustic guitar filled, cringe-inducing kooky scripted movies that have crept out on a regular basis this decade.

It's a miracle that no ex cast members of Arrested Development feature in this.

It's of no surprise that a star of a new hit American comedy does star though. John Krasinski is one of the better characters in the US edition of The Office, starring as Jim (a character, with a slightly adjusted name, who was previously played by Martin Freeman in the UK version). He's been in a few flicks before, including the Robin Williams' vehicle License To Wed, and is probably the best and least annoying character from the America iteration of Gervais and Merchant's comedy franchise.

The rest of the cast has a few really exciting additions that I look forward to seeing though. The supreme Allison Janney, best known as CJ Cregg in The West Wing, is a co-star as well as the solid Jeff Daniels and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

So it's with quiet but cautious optimism that I look forward to this. The promotional poster looks dreadful though, with John Krasinski donning some out-of-character glasses, which make me fear this could go down a less-than-good route...

Thoughts Afterwards

An odd sense of déjà vu set in as I watched this. Every drawn out scene seemed oddly familiar, almost as if it had all been done before...

Away We Go is as expected as one might expect from a drab trailer and a promotional campaign with the tone of an old woollen jumper.

Acoustic guitars do indeed play a major part, setting a mood that stays pretty consistently throughout. The indie vibe.

Sam Mendes is surprisingly withdrawn in his direction, offering us well timed moments of cinematography that offer the viewer beautiful glimpses of how the two protagonists, caught up in life's most intimidating in-between stage of life, are feeling.

And it's this so daunting a stage of life, the nine months between being just yourself and then suddenly one day you're a parent, which this movie captures in a particularly normal, non-offensive or barrier breaking way. We follow the adventure of Burt (a slightly dorkish but likeable John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph - apparently a popular actress in America, as a regular on Saturday Night Live, and she isn't exactly radiating 'movie star for the future' in this but she gives a solid performance) who travel to various locations across the USA to find the perfect place to start their upcoming family. Various life lessons and characters pass by, as expected, and valuables lessons are learnt.

But sadly the plotline poses the film's biggest problem - it's been done before!

And not just that, it's been done 'twice' before, in different guises, in the past couple of years. Both Juno and Knocked Up follow soon-to-be parents and the perils they face. So instead of becoming a movie in it's own right it just becomes another challenger to the 'pregnancy based drama / comedy flicks' crown - because, let's be fair, it's a rare person who will want a DVD collection with all of these donning the shelves. Another reminder of the lack of originality in Hollywood perhaps?

Two great performances, and moments, occurred though. Thanks to the wonderful Allison Janney we had some brilliant comedy gold with her worst-mother-ever role on the couples first pit-stop. Her over the top acting was perfect and was, I think, the only real time I laughed in the whole movie. The second great moment was a rivetingly weird Maggie Gyllenhaal, a character who definitely made the movie.

I guess the big question is if this is better than Knocked Up or Juno? The main characters are definitely not as annoying or unrealistic, the settings are beautiful and I think everyone in the cinema felt like they'd been on a bit of an adventure too. But there are words that the movie couldn't quite get away from; bland, dry and slightly forgettable.

This is the perfect movie for parents to see, with bold and sometimes heartbreaking stories interwoven in a very linear and personal plotline. But for everyone else, especially those who've seen either Knocked Up or Juno recently, there's little you'll get from seeing this. For the more casual viewer wanting solid laughs then you'll be let down though, as drama and cinematography most certainly took the driving seat here. But it certainly felt like a 'labour' of love by Sam Mendes though, it's just a shame we've seen it all before.

Tim Lince

3/5 Stars