Dir.: Marc Webb; Cast: Chris Evans, McKenna Grace, Jenny Slate, Lindsay Duncan, Octavia Spencer; USA 2017, 101 min.
Spiderman director Marc Webb and Captain America hero Chris Evans team up for a well-meaning but utterly predictable custody fight story, which is saved from mediocrity by McKenna Grace, as seven-year old Mary, breathing some life into the soppy and sometimes downright embarrassing project.
Boston philosophy lecturer Frank Adler (Evans) is guilt-ridden after the death of his sister, a mathematical genius who committed suicide due to pressure from their over-bearing mother Evelyn (Duncan). Frank feels partly for her death and decides to takes her six-month-old daughter Mary to Florida to raise her away from his mother’s influence. Seven years on, whilst Mary is impressing her school with her math prowess, the condescending Evelyn turns up and starts a custody battle, claiming that Frank is neglects his niece’s talents and, as a mere boat repairman, cannot give Mary the resources she deserves. Despite support from Mary’s teacher Bonnie (Slater) and a helpful neighbour Roberta (Spencer) Frank has to give in, and his fears come true: Mary is taken in by downright evil foster parents, who together with Evelyn, give Mary home schooling centred around developing her mathematical genius. When Frank learns that Fred, Mary’s eyed-cat, has been abandoned by the foster-parents to a home for stray animals and is in danger of being put down he dreams up a far-fetched plot to save Mary.
Everyone on board this project gives their professional best – with the exception of scriptwriter Tom Flynn, who comes up with some really cringeworthy moments, like Mary finding her teacher Bonnie half-naked in Frank’s apartment, after a drunken one-night stand. DoP Stuart Dryburgh (The Great Wall) doesn’t have a great deal to work with as the characters are one-dimensional in this rather torpid affair that aims to pull at our heart-strings but only succeeds in numbing our brain cells. Luckily, McKenna Grace is unperturbed by the adult mediocrity around her, proving that she is the only one deserving the film’s title. AS
ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 16 June 2017