Fox // 2009 // 88 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Brendan Babish (Retired) // January 18th, 2010
Though you probably haven't heard of her, Vicky Jenson co-directed two of the biggest hits of the previous decade: Shrek and Shark Tale. Now, after conquering the world of animation, she is turning her attention to flesh-and-blood humans with her live-action directorial debut, Post Grad (Blu-ray).
Ryden Malby (Alexis Bledel, Gilmore Girls) is an overachieving recent college graduate whose lofty plans of conquering the Los Angeles publishing world are crushed by the Great Recession. Disappointed by her lack of job prospects, she moves back home with her odd parents (Michael Keaton, Mr. Mom, and Jane Lynch, Best in Show) and commiserates with her best friend, Adam (Zach Gilford, Friday Night Lights). Ryden is so dejected about her dismal employment options, she seems oblivious to her friend's romantic interest in her. Will this obsession with a nonexistent career ruin the most important relationship in her life?
I usually try to know as little as possible about a film I review before I watch it. I don't watch trailers, I stay away from other reviews, and definitely don't solicit my friends for their opinions. Unfortunately, this wasn't possible with Post Grad. Though the movie had a limited release and received little attention during its brief box-office run, I noticed it received almost universally negative reviews. At the time, I merely felt bad for Bledel, who seems far too talented for mindless romantic comedies. Upon receiving the Post Grad screener in the mail, I felt bad for me. When I sat down to watch the movie, I girded myself for the worst hour-and-a-half of my life since I saw Antichrist.
However, unlike Lars Von Trier's latest film, Post Grad ended up being an almost entirely pain-free experience. In fact, it actually made me laugh about a dozen times, which is far more than the median average for a bland Hollywood romantic comedy. What saves this film from being disposable is an incredibly talented comedic cast, including featured actors Keaton, Lynch, and the rarely utilized Carol Burnett, as well as an impressive array of cameos from Craig Robinson (The Office), Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live), and Demetri Martin (The Daily Show). I have to assume these actors were allowed to improvise, because in a script with plenty of groan-and-grimace-inducing humor, all seem anachronistically funny. Sure, it's a little sad to see Keaton, whose hair seems to be malting like an old dog, reduced to third banana status in a half-baked comedy, but it is heartening to see that he still has that funny, manic energy that made us all fall in love with him in Gung Ho.
Still, I can't dismiss the possibility that my appreciation for the smattering of laughs the film provides is out of whack due to diminished expectations. Make no mistake: Post Grad has got major problems. The film's action is sometimes hyper and dizzying, which is anathema to comedy and seems like an ill-conceived attempt to make the film hip. The chemistry between Bledel and Gilford is non-existent, and their flirty, platonic friendship is weird. Who gives their platonic girlfriend intimate foot massages? Worst of all is the excess amount of plot screenwriter Kelly Fremon squeezes into one movie. In addition to the job search, there are two romantic subplots, as well as family hijinks galore, featuring a father, mother, grandmother, and younger brother. It's as if Post Grad was originally a thirteen-episode sitcom that was compressed into a 90-minute movie.
This is hardly a film that's going to amass a large number of admirers. It's not gut-busting funny, it doesn't resonate emotionally, and -- though it is one of the first films to work the Great Recession into its plot -- has nothing profound to say about how the damaged economy affects young people (unless you think demonstrating that it kinda sucks is profound). That said, the movie partially redeems itself by giving a talented cast the freedom to be funny. Sure, it's not much, but it certainly takes the edge off a bland story, strained romantic subplots, and a teetering economy.
Though comedies don't usually improve much with the upgrade from DVD to Blu-ray, Post Grad may be one of the exceptions. The film was shot in Los Angeles and makes good use of the city's sprawling and eclectic architecture, as well as the suburban environs. The colors are clear and vibrant, which makes the visuals perhaps a little too interesting, especially compared to the often flaccid story. Also, the sharp picture can sometimes make characters' skin and makeup problems a little disturbing (not to mention Keaton's scalp).
Apart from the soundtrack, the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix is restrained to the front speakers. I don't know if anyone is going to be looking for a vibrant, surround-sound experience from Post Grad, but considering that much of the film's action takes place in busy urban environments, more care could have been taken to demonstrate the frenetic energy of the environment to the viewer.
There are loads of extras on the disc, but almost all of it is filler, and much has little to do with the film itself. The only two special features of substance are about 15 minutes of deleted scenes and "Post Grad Confidential," a featurette with Jenson, Fremon, and the movie's producers commenting on what attracted them to the project. Other than those, there are about a half-dozen mini-featurettes about job hunting that are bland and superficial.
It's pretty simple: If you're a young person looking for a mindless comedy that provides a few chuckles, Post Grad should fit the bill, but please keep your expectations low.
Hung jury on this one. It's not an unqualified good film, but better than its reputation might have you believe.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted/Alternate Scenes
* Music Video
* Digital Copy
* Official Site