The all-star cast of Smart People proves that family drama can make for great comedy

Por Natalia de Ory /
Updated Abril 10, 2008
Credit: Bruce Birmelin/Courtesy of Miramax Films

Cast: Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church, Ellen Page, Ashton Holmes

Director: Noam Murro

Script: Mark Poirier (based on his novel of the same title)

Rated: R

Grade: A

Professor Lawrence Wetherhold (Dennis Quaid) is not what you would describe as a happy and fulfilled individual. The brilliant but acerbic college professor seems to be stumbling through life ever since the death of his wife. He's lost his passion for teaching, isolated his children (Ellen Page and Ashton Holmes) and can't even get a book published. Not the elements that bring to mind a comedy, right? Wrong.

Smart People, the feature film directorial debut of director Noam Murro, takes a satirical look at the ups and downs of growing up, coming to terms with reality and ultimately realizing that your family will always be there for you (whether they like it or not).

The Wetherhold's seemingly peaceful yet dull existence comes to a screeching halt when Lawrence's charming, freeloading adopted brother, Chuck (Thomas Haden Church), shows up in need of a place to crash. Add to the mix Lawrence's budding and sometimes awkward relationship with former student Janet (Sarah Jessica Parker), and the Wetherhold family finally gets the wake-up call that they so desperately needed. “The key was that the cast really understood their characters and [realized] that this is not one of those movies where there is a huge arc to each of them,” Murro says. “What happens to the Wetherholds is what happens to a lot of us in real life–that is, we don't change in really big ways.”