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MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Life Itself’ delivers non-stop pummeling of sentimental schlock

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Vicky Sparks

Every Tuesday night I settle into my couch, Kleenex box beside me, and prepare myself for another episode of This is Us.

In a dark way I’ve come to look forward to weeping with the Pearson family each week.

I have never in my life found the romantic comedy Crazy Stupid Love starring Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling on TV and been able to resist watching.

I tell you this so you understand I am a fan of Dan Fogleman (creator of This is Us and writer of Crazy, Stupid Love). Yes, he’s sentimental and earnest but in the best way possible.

So I am sad to report Dan lost his way on Life Itself. This is a not a film told with a blend of humour and cheese and heartfelt confessions. Instead, it’s an emotional beating done with a sledgehammer.

Not content to let us feel one or two things this movie makes you feel ALL THE FEELINGS YOU’VE EVER FELT IN YOUR LIFE in cheap and manipulative ways. It features five interconnected stories and each one makes less and less sense than the last.

It opens with a love story involving Oscar Isaacs and Olivia Wilde. You may recognize it from the trailer, which presents the movie as a romantic comedy between the two of them. It’s one of the worst bait-and-switch trailer atrocities of the year.

Annette Benning makes a brief and totally wasted appearance as a therapist, Mandy Patinkin stops by to be a grandpa in Chapter Two and we continue to waste talented actors all the way into Chapter Three when Antonio Banderas appears as a lonely but wealthy olive farm owner (possible silver lining – you will learn a lot about how olive oil is made and one day you may find yourself on Jeopardy). How this many talented, seasoned actors got trapped in this mess I will never understand.

The film features three people getting run over and killed in New York City traffic, a totally blindsiding graphic suicide, orphans, children watching their parents die, adultery, dead dogs and in case you hadn’t already cried, it kills off at least two characters with cancer.

Throughout the non-stop pummeling it is self righteous in defending the sentimental schlock being peddled.

Life Itself is a far cry from the insanely popular This is Us, but the studio is hoping that simply reminding viewers it’s from the same creator is enough to get you to the theatre.

Don’t be fooled. Those of us who love a good cry deserve better, and hopefully it’s coming on Sept. 25 when This is Us returns.

Vicky Sparks is a Bright’s Grove native and movie critic for Global TV’s The Morning Show, which airs nationally on Fridays. Her Journal Reviews cover movies playing at Galaxy Cinemas Sarnia


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