Reese Witherspoon shines in otherwise forgettable rom-com ‘Home Again’

Witherspoon and Alexander connect in the kitchen.

Two stars

Home Again Reese Witherspoon, Pico Alexander, Jon Rudnitsky. Directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday citywide.

If Home Again had been pitched 25 years ago, it could have ended up a sitcom in the ABC TGIF lineup, right alongside Step by Step and Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper. That’s how bland and sanitized the debut from writer-director Hallie Myers-Shyer is, even with a typically radiant Reese Witherspoon as its star. Witherspoon plays Alice Kinney, a recently separated mother of two adorable and precocious daughters who moves back into her palatial family home in LA and ends up offering the guest house to a trio of attractive young aspiring filmmakers. These three generic dudebros might as well be named Director, Writer and Actor for all the depth and personality that Meyers-Shyer gives them, which is especially problematic when one of them is meant to be Alice’s love interest.

That’s Director, aka Harry (Pico Alexander), a handsome but mostly vapid guy who picks up Alice when she’s out at a bar celebrating her 40th birthday (he’s 13 years younger) and winds up charming her in spite of herself. He’s great in bed and great with Alice’s kids, but she’s still dealing with unresolved feelings for her ex (Michael Sheen) and trying to figure out what to do with her life. The characters in Home Again have the kind of luxurious problems that aren’t really problems, but Witherspoon is charming enough to make that kind of privileged angst entertaining. Her three male co-stars (including Jon Rudnitsky and Nat Wolff as Harry’s partners in moviemaking) aren’t nearly as charismatic, and Alexander is so hopelessly outclassed by Witherspoon that they might as well be in different movies.

The daughter of rom-com queenpin (and Home Again producer) Nancy Meyers (The Holiday, Something’s Gotta Give, What Women Want, etc.), Meyers-Shyer shares her mom’s fondness for tastefully appointed interiors that look like they belong in an upscale catalog (it’s no surprise that Alice is working to become an interior designer), but needs to work on elevating her comic instincts and shooting style above sitcom levels. The weekly sitcom adventures of Alice and her unlikely houseguests would be cuddly, inoffensive and completely forgettable. A major feature film needs a lot more than that.

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