"I've spent my whole life playing it safe," whines Judd Altman (Jason Bateman), the middle-class milquetoast at the center of This Is Where I Leave You. Yes, well, so has director Shawn Levy, but on the basis of his latest vacuous trifle he has no apparent intention, as Altman does, of effecting a much-needed change. Doubtless there are more incompetent filmmakers working in Hollywood today, but I'm hard-pressed to think of a more uninteresting one: Films like Date Night and The Internship are feats of four-quadrant emptiness.
The most charitable thing you can say about This Is Where I Leave You is that it is resolutely innocuous -- a nothing of a movie, neutered and sanitary. Its subject, perhaps unintentionally, is the inexhaustible narcissism of affluent white people, who here mope and moan their way through various break-ups and infidelities. Rich people, the film suggests, suffer the same indignities in romance as the rest of us. Fair enough, but you may find it more difficult to extend your sympathies to Bateman's heartbroken cuckold when he begins cruising through the suburbs in his luxury convertible.
Perhaps it's unfair to criticize This Is Where I Leave You for being too narrow in its conception of the world -- one milieu is not inherently less valuable as a subject than any other, after all, and Levy is welcome to make films about whomever he prefers. But Consider Martin Amis's bafflement at the success of Four Weddings and a Funeral: "I can see that the upper classes might enjoy watching the upper classes portrayed with such whimsical fondness," he wrote in the New Yorker. "But why should it appeal to four hundred berks from Hendon?"