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Originally published Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 12:04 AM

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'People Like Us' — hey, a summer movie about real people!

"People Like Us," directed by Alex Kurtzman and starring Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Michelle Pfeiffer and Mark Duplass, is about two siblings who didn't know they were. Though it uses a few too many plot devices, writes Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald, the film has an appealing, real-life quality and a lovely, unexpected ending.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 3 stars

'People Like Us,' with Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Hall D'Addario, Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass, Jon Favreau. Directed by Alex Kurtzman, from a screenplay by Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jody Lambert. 115 minutes. Rated PG-13 for language, some drug use and brief sexuality. Several theaters.

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Your synopsis of the plot made me think of one of my very favorite movies, Lone Star. MORE


What if you discovered, as a young adult, that you had a sibling you'd never met? That's the very real-life idea behind Alex Kurtzman's "People Like Us," a rare summer studio movie that's not about superheroes or car crashes or comedies, but about how people deal with their families — including the family members they didn't know they had. It's not an entirely fresh idea but always an intriguing one.

Sam (Chris Pine) is a salesman, a smooth operator who doesn't worry too much about anything other than money, summoned home to Los Angeles after his father dies. Quick scenes establish that he's long been estranged from his mother, Lillian (Michelle Pfeiffer), indifferent to the needs of his girlfriend, Hannah (Olivia Wilde), and eager to head back East — until a package given to him by his father's attorney leads him to a blond waitress named Frankie (Elizabeth Banks), his half-sister. At 30, she's just a couple of years older than he is; their father moved on to his second family and, it seems, never looked back.

For a while, "People Like Us" seems to be going in an odd direction: Sam, for reasons the script never quite makes clear, befriends Frankie and her son Josh (Michael Hall D'Addario), but doesn't tell them of the biological connection. We watch Frankie starting to fall for Sam — he's kind of a knight in shining armor for this struggling single mom — and cringe, awaiting the scene in which she learns that this potential boyfriend is her brother. But, somewhere along the way, the actors get us invested in the story; particularly Banks, whose Frankie has a big, what-the-hell laugh that speaks volumes about how this tough-talking woman gets by, and Pfeiffer, who takes a small role and finds a world of disappointment and hope within it.

"People Like Us" seems to have a few too many plot devices — Frankie's alcoholism, Lillian's illness, Hannah in general — and sometimes it swings too close to melodrama. But there's an appealing real-life quality to these characters: Their rumpled homes look like people might actually live there (as opposed to so many movie homes that look like a designer created them), and they all seem to be trying, however imperfectly, to do the right thing. The ending, in a sun- dappled park, is lovely; an unexpected family revisiting the past in a way that makes the future brighter.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

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