Grief-stricken tale feels fa­mil­iar

Los Angeles Times - - AT THE MOVIES - — Robert Abele

Every­body’s grief may take dif­fer­ent shapes, but co­me­dian Demetri Martin’s movie about it, “Dean,” re­sem­bles a lot of other joke/ mope/joke/emo-mu­sic movies. Writer-di­rec­tor Martin, a dead­pan wit as stand-up and il­lus­tra­tor, also plays the ti­tle char­ac­ter, a Brook­lyn-based car­toon­ist floun­der­ing over the re­cent death of his mother.

With his prac­ti­cal minded dad (Kevin Kline) in­tent on sell­ing the fam­ily home, a friend (Reid Scott) get­ting mar­ried, and the con­tin­ued pres­ence of an ex­fi­ancée (Chris­tine Woods) cloud­ing his judg­ment, Dean hits the es­cape hatch and flies to Los An­ge­les. There he meets beau­ti­ful straight shooter Nicki (Gillian Ja­cobs) and pins his cop­ing fu­ture on their ro­man­tic spark, while back home, dad gin­gerly woos his real es­tate agent (Mary Steen­bur­gen).

Aside from the use of Martin’s amus­ing draw­ings as in­serted com­men­tary, many fea­tur­ing the Grim Reaper as a kind of side­kick, this is re­gret­tably de­riv­a­tive, low-boil ma­te­rial. It’s al­most afraid to in­vite messi­ness or in­sight­ful belly laughs, and re­mains con­tent to cruise on a wispy lik­a­bil­ity.

The real dis­ap­point­ment is that it’s even dif­fi­cult to care about a nice wid­owed en­gi­neer and a kind real es­tate agent played by Os­car­win­ning ac­tors. By the time “Dean” ends, the most it will have done is trig­ger a list of more mem­o­rable movies worth re­vis­it­ing from the likes of Woody Allen, Paul Mazursky, Noah Baum­bach and Wes An­der­son.

“Dean.” Rated: PG-13, for lan­guage and some sug­ges­tive ma­te­rial. Run­ning time: 1 hour, 33 min­utes. Play­ing: Land­mark, West L.A.

CBS Films

DEAN (DEMETRI MARTIN) and his fa­ther (Kevin Kline) face a loss and go their sep­a­rate ways.

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