Some movies are home runs. Others are strikeouts, or base hits, or error-filled disasters. Using that metaphor, I’d call “Away We Go” a double. It’s a solid film full of nice performances, memorable characters, engaging music, and beautiful shots, although it never quite pushes the envelope enough to make it something really exciting. John Krasinski, of “The Office,” and “Saturday Night Live’s” Maya Rudolph star as Burt and Verona, who are expecting a baby and find themselves trying to decide where to live after they learn that Burt’s parents are moving away.
To that end, they embark on a road trip, visiting friends and family around the country as they look for a home to call their own. The conclusion is telegraphed early on, so it shouldn’t be a big surprise, but it’s natural. I’ll just say that there isn’t a big shocking twist and leave it at that, lest I’m accused of spoiling the film.
Of course, their future happiness is never in doubt. While that lack of tension could have caused the film to sag, the dramatic conflict is instead transferred to the series of situations the couple finds themselves in. For example, Alison Janney is hysterical as Verona’s ex-co-worker, a woman with no filter and complete cluelessness about the train wreck her family has become. Maggie Gyllenhaal is equally funny, but in a much different way, as a quasi-relative of Burt’s (she’s the daughter of a friend of Burt’s father, and she was always described as a cousin) who insists, among other things, that she doesn’t believe in strollers because she can’t bear to push her children away from her.
Through those situations, Burt and Verona learn what they do and don’t want out of a family, something all of us parents go through at some point. (Hopefully earlier rather than later.) While the film’s early encounters are wrapped up in a tidy way, however, some of the later visits are truncated: Burt and Verona have a brief interaction with a family, and then they’re off to their next destination without a sense of closure, which is a shame, considering the serious issues those families are facing – those issues were more relevant to Burt and Verona than the earlier over-the-top characters who believe crazy s**t. I don’t think there was a need to rush the pacing, since the film clocks in at 98 minutes and wouldn’t have suffered if it was, say, 105.
The extras on this disc are pretty basic: a pair of featurettes, one covering the making of the film and another discussing the production’s efforts to be environmentally conscious, and a commentary track with director Sam Mendes and writers Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida. They’re serviceable extras, although the commentary refers to deleted scenes that aren’t included here. However, the commentary offers a nice overall discussion of the film, so don’t blame the participants for a decision that was probably made after they recorded the track.