Smart People: Ellen Page’s Middling Juno Follow-Up

Lawrence Wetherhold (Dennis Quaid, beneath a greasy moptop and a brushy beard) is a misanthropic college prof who, when he's not willfully forgetting his students' names or altering clocks to duck office hours, is out peddling a pissed-off rant to publishers totally uninterested in his treatise on how he's right and every other literary critic in the history of words is wrong, wrong, wrong. He's also a crap single dad who has no idea what his children (Ashton Holmes and Ellen Page) are capable of. Cue Chuck, Lawrence's stepbrother (Thomas Haden Church), who enters to loosen things up with a little THC, followed by more appropriate doses of TLC. Then add to the mix Dr. Janet Hartigan (Sarah Jessica Parker), Lawrence's former student, who still has a thing for the prof. The film progresses apace: Bastard meets beauty while heart meets brain, and the hard widower is slowly softened into something more easily recognized as "human." But the movie never really gives us a reason for his evolution toward softydom: It just sort of, kind of, barely happens—not because it has to, not because the film's shown anything approaching a love so great as to be life-altering, but because it's supposed to, this being a movie about dumb-ass brainiacs obsessed with their own navels before they're forced to consider someone else's belly button.

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