Editors' pick

Away We Go

Away We Go movie poster
MPAA rating: R
Genre: Comedy
A couple (John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph) take a cross country trip in order to find the perfect place for their family.
Starring: John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, Jeff Daniels, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Allison Janney, Catherine O'Hara
Director: Sam Mendes
Running time: 1:38
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Editorial Review

Jean-Paul Sartre quipped that hell is Other People. But any legal guardian of school-age children will offer the following, slightly refined correction: Hell is Other Parents.

Other Parents nag and brag to invidious extremes. Other Parents spawn the Queen Bees and bossy Mini-Me's. Those "My Kid's an Honor Student" bumper stickers? Other Parents.

People who judge "Honor Student" bumper-sticker people? Other Parents.

The couple at the center of "Away We Go" don't want to be Other Parents. The problem is, they're not exactly sure what kind of parents they do want to be. As the movie opens, Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph) find out that Verona is pregnant. When they go to tell Burt's parents (Catherine O'Hara and Jeff Daniels), they discover that the expectant grandparents plan to move to Europe before the baby is born.

That development sends Burt and Verona on a journey to find a new definition of themselves as an expanded family unit.

Written by Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida and directed by Sam Mendes, "Away We Go," at least at first blush, feels like a welcome respite from the false happily-ever-afters of most mainstream movies.

The appeal of "Away We Go" is heightened by its two stars. Hulu heartthrob Krasinski might have donned a bushy beard and glasses to banish all thoughts of Jim, the character he plays on TV's "The Office," but the two men are essentially the same guy.

Rudolph is more a cipher, moving through the movie as if she's harboring a secret that she dares her co-stars and the audience to ferret out.

But mostly, Verona is a mirror to the people that she and Burt encounter on their road trip. And it's in these vignettes that "Away We Go" begins to feel less like an authentic exploration of identity than a condemnation of the very community the couple pretends to crave. No one, it turns out, is good enough for Burt and Verona.

But fittingly, the final shot features Burt and Verona alone, with their backs to the audience and the world. Ready, finally, to become someone else's idea of hell.

-- Ann Hornaday (June 12, 2009)

Contains language and sexual content.