The Best and the Brightest

8 Jul

Title: The Best and the Brightest
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Josh Shelov
Writers: Josh Shelov and Michael Jaeger
Starring: 
Neil Patrick Harris, Bonnie Somerville, Amy Sedaris, Peter Serafinowicz, Christopher McDonald, Kate Mulgrew
MPAA Rating: 
R, pervasive language, sexual content and some nudity
Runtime: 
93 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
4.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 
28%

 

I like Neil Patrick Harris, I really do, his role as Barney Stinson is How I Met Your Mother is one of the definitive TV characters of the last decade and he always seems super charming in interviews and uber talented when you see him do his whole song-and-dance routing when he’s hosted the Tony’s and Emmy’s. But as much as I like Neil Patrick Harris, the feeling didn’t translate to his latest film, The Best and the Brightest. This is a film that tackles and attempts to satirize the ridiculously tedious process that is getting one of your kids into one of those private New York City elementary schools.

And I actually like this set-up, and when I saw the trailer and heard about the film I was actually really looking forward to see how such a talented cast, which other than Mr. Harris counts with the likes of Amy Sedaris and Peter Serafinowicz among others, would handle this material that seemed primed for a pretty awesome satire. However, even though the cast tries their best, this is the sort of satirical material that you have to be very good handling, and in the hands of a more capable director then I could potentially see The Best and the Brightest shining, but unfortunately Josh Shelov, who directed and co-wrote this film, was most certainly not the right man for the job, too unexperienced to balance everything in the right way and he just doesn’t deliver at all here. Mr. Shelov starts real well, and the first fifteen or twenty minutes of this film are carefully trodden by him, and even manage to truthfully engage you into everything in it, but once he derails himself from the tracks a little bit, it’s a catastrophe, as the film never manages to find back its right tone again.

Mr. Harris plays Jeff, who’s married to Sam, played by Bonnie Sommerville, a couple who have just made the move from Delaware to New York with their five-year-old Beatrice in tow. Once they get there, however, they discover that getting little Beatrice in one of those hyper-elite kindergartens is next to impossible, and then the film begins to take us through the various adventures Jeff and Sam go through in order to secure one of those elusive admissions spots for their daughter, helped by an admissions consultant played by Amy Sedaris, who much like Mr. Harris is someone I usually find to be about ten sorts of awesome but that just wasn’t all that great here. And I know this is supposed to be a satire and everything, I get that, but the fact is that even for a film that tried to poke fun at that whole process The Best and the Brightest fell way off-mark with their wild attempts at getting us to laugh, more often than not having them feel uncomfortably desperate, actually.

Yes, the cast may be a pretty damn solid one, and they obviously help this one from really crumbling down, but the fact is that they were given probably one or two good jokes, and they then had to proceed to try and milk those two jokes for ninety minutes, so you can understand why once you’re past the half hour mark the jokes have absolutely no juice left in them and the whole film starts reeking. That joke being the fact that somehow a transcript of the dirty e-mails Jeff’s best friend has sent to a woman get thrown into the admissions file for Beatrice. Which means now that Jeff has to pretend that he’s this sort of avant-garde poet or something and people start buying these dirty texts as some work of art which gives Jeff prestige and a shot at getting Beatrice into that school. This is funny for a bit, but after a while you can’t believe that the whole film is going to run on such a dumb misunderstand, let alone how it’s going to last for an hour and a half on that one joke.

Funny as that one joke may have proven to be for a very short while, and good as these actors may be, this thin and thinly-written material with characters that border on the caricaturesque doesn’t really makes sense as anything more than a middle-of-the-show Saturday Night Live sketch, because as a feature-length film it falls seriously short. And as the satire it was so desperately trying to be, it falls even shorter, because not only were the jokes not there, but the ones that were there weren’t handled nicely enough by a script that more often than not seemed to be really malicious to the people it was supposed to be just joking about, and by doing so The Best and the Brightest totally lost me as an audience, and even though I didn’t hate this film I just can’t believe that such a nicely talented roster of performers were waster on such weak material.

Grade: C

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