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Friday
Jun122009

Away We Go

Away We Go is a film that wastes no time introducing its two main characters and their many quirky traits. From the first shot, which shows Burt (John Krasinski) going down on his girlfriend, Verona (Maya Rudolph), we learn that these two are madly in love, but have a sense of humor about things, never relegating themselves to what society would deem a "normal" couple. They're a little rugged, not in the audacious, masculine way, but more in the looks-like-they-haven't-showered-in-a-while way, with Burt sporting a giant beard and Verona stripped of any cosmetic enhacements. They aren't beautiful people, but rather ordinary, average ones, and their love is so strong that they can see past the physical aesthetics that others would focus on and see the true goodness of each other inside.

These two characters are the reason this movie works, with all due credit going to Krasinski and Rudolph, who for the first time both get to display their acting talents. Krasinski is great on "The Office," but he rarely gets to take a dramatic turn and Rudolph was funny on "Saturday Night Live," but she too has a lack of dramatic history. They both shine here, giving wonderful performances that pull the flick through even during its sluggish, uneven parts.

Away We Go is about Burt and Verona who have a baby due in a few short months and have moved to live closer to Burt's parents so they can be there when the child arrives, but much to their surprise, his parents tell them they are moving to Belgium and leaving one month prior to the baby's due date. After this unexpected announcement, the two decide to leave their home and travel, starting fresh and exploring the country in search of a good place for their yet to be born baby. Along the way, they meet many people, all of whom inadvertently teach them a lesson about life and help them understand how difficult raising a child will be.

Away We Go is a film about life and love, showing two people who are nervous about bringing a child into the world, fearful of the many hurdles they must face, but quickly learn that their problems aren't so big after all. During their travels, they meet a couple who has just dealt with their fifth miscarriage, unable to have children and devastated by it, despite their many adopted children. They love them to death, but realize they will never truly be their own. Another encounter is with Burt's brother, whose wife has just stranded him and his young daughter and he can't imagine raising her in a world where she is "the girl without a mom." Burt and Verona don't have everything figured out, unsure of where they'll end up, even with a kid on the way, but these encounters are a revelation to them, showing that being there and loving their child will be the only thing that matters. It's the beauty in the simplicity of it all that teaches the importance of family.

However, I felt like the film lacked a real emotional connection. We spend all of our time with Burt and Verona and come to love them, but neither of them ever run into any type of conflict. Their journey is a journey of learning, appreciative of their parental opportunity and vowing to never stop loving each other no matter how tough things get, and I enjoyed that, but the problem is that, as good as the performances were, I never connected with them. The emotion in the movie belongs to the side characters, but the concern here is that their screen time only lasts for about 10 to 15 minutes at best, which leaves little time for us to learn about them or care for their problems.

Nonetheless, some of that passion did manage to seep through to Burt and Verona, including a terrific scene where the two conduct their own pseudo marriage making promises not to love and to cherish, but rather to raise their child in a world free of singularity and loneliness, a world where their child would always have a mother and father. These were the film's best moments. Unfortunately, they were few and far between.

Away We Go managed to balance its dramatic tension and its comedic moments quite well, although it dragged some of its jokes out for too long. Allison Janney plays a minor role in the film, playing an eccentric mother of two who tells it like it is, uncaring of how people perceive her, whose never ending shtick eventually becomes tiresome while her husband, played by Jim Gaffigan, has a running joke about a flood destroying the world that is far too lengthy to be funny. These moments weren't in abundance, but the scattered placement of these elongated sequences worked against the film's otherwise perfect pace.

Away We Go is a good movie that is guaranteed to delight, but it lacks that special something that makes other similar films resonate within us. It leads us to a conveniently dapper conclusion that works for the story, but fails to create any type of emotional payoff, which works to its detriment. If not for Krasinski and Rudolph's sweeping portrayals of their characters, the film could have buckled under its own ambition, but they're the glue holding this one together, even if the foundation is a little wobbly.

Away We Go receives 3.5/5

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