Big names, subtle themes in “Away We Go”

Written by Dave Eggers and wife Vendela Vida, "Away We Go" is smart but takes few chances.

Out of normal acting context but certainly in their element, Krasinski and Rudolph star in

Ashley Goetz

Out of normal acting context but certainly in their element, Krasinski and Rudolph star in "Away We Go." PHOTO COURTESY FOCUS FEATURES

âÄúAway We GoâÄù DIRECTED BY: Sam Mendes STARRING: Maya Rudolph, John Krasinski RATED: R SHOWING: Landmark Uptown, 2906 Hennepin Ave. âÄúAway We GoâÄù is a film where almost everything appears to be out of its element. Jim from âÄúThe OfficeâÄù (John Krasinski) is no longer the sexy prankster, but instead a bearded, uncouth victim of the recession, while Maya Rudolph traded in parodying Whitney Housten to play a depressed, bohemian mom-to-be. Finally, the film marks Dave Eggers (âÄúA Heartbreaking Work of Staggering GeniusâÄù and founder of McSweeneyâÄôs publishers) and his wife Vendela VidaâÄôs (âÄúLet the Northern Lights Erase Your NameâÄù) venture out of books and into screenwriting. With so many big names, âÄúAway We GoâÄù feels like yet another quirky but formulaic recipe for cashing in. While it might seem like so much career hopscotch would produce an intricate tangle of a movie, âÄúAway We GoâÄù is actually a straightforward film that instead focuses its creative juices on articulating just how sad the American family of the present can be. Like many of EggersâÄô stories, the central characters find themselves painfully untethered from obligations and take that opportunity to travel. KrasinskiâÄôs Burt and RudolphâÄôs Verona find themselves suddenly expecting a baby in their 30s (kind of like Eggers and Vida, although they swear the film is hardly autobiographical in any way) at the same time BurtâÄôs parents decide to move out of the country. The pair decide to flee the scene as well, and âÄúaway they goâÄù to visit estranged friends and family all over the map. The film opens up with a scene depicting cunnilingus performed with tube socks unapologetically on, but the humor isnâÄôt fully cued until the other characters come into play. ThatâÄôs when the writing takes off and lines about tucking testicle-resembling boobs into socks and âÄúgo butch on usâÄù come into play. Although topics like family beds (see: having sex in front of children), the demonization of strollers and orgasms during childbirth keep the film from getting too serious, it canâÄôt seem to shed a firmly-rooted sense of misery. The settings are old, beat-up places void of glamour, like race tracks, cheap motels and houses in serious need of repair. Even the soundtrack is solely relegated to Alexi Murdoch, who also contributed a song to âÄúGarden State,âÄù furthering the likelihood that these two movies will be lumped together. MurdochâÄôs constant strummed allusions to Nick Drake keep the mood dark and sincere, if not a touch monotonous. The film itself lacks a sense of creative adventure, which is unusual coming from Eggers and director Sam Mendes (âÄúAmerican BeautyâÄù). EggersâÄô McSweeneyâÄôs releases are known for taking artistic chances, releasing products recognizable by their impeccable, engaging graphics and use of new media. EggersâÄô writing also frequently breaks into lists or quirky dialogue between things like trees and the clouds. In comparison, âÄúAway We GoâÄù plays it disappointingly safe, leaving it hard not to wonder what magic touches the pair could have translated from writing to cinema. Regardless of what could have been, âÄúAway We GoâÄù will be remembered as a quick-witted film that articulates the woes of an as-yet undefined generation. Even though the writers try to laugh about it, âÄúAway We GoâÄù seeks to remind viewers that thereâÄôs nothing funny about leaving new children to a world of illusory money and couples with little belief in long-term commitment.