In a very quiet and unassuming way, a way that almost sneaks up on the viewer, Post Grad manages to become an astonishingly bad movie, the kind that wastes its small measure of potential while simultaneously committing a list's worth of unforgivable crimes of the clichéd. There's the old "stitched together from the pieces of better movies" complaint that movie critics often use, but Post Grad may actually be made up of parts from crappy ones. I'm rarely caught off guard by the quality of a movie -- nine times out of ten, I have an approximate idea of how good I'd like it to be and how bad it might be going in -- but director Vicky Jenson and writer Kelly Fremon have really pumped out a shockingly uninspired turd of a film that left me reeling at each new twist and turn.
The measure of promise I mentioned is buried in the film's subject matter: that unique feeling of aimlessness once the college experience has ended. For me, college ended when I ran out of money, but I still think I know the sensation of being lost at sea, something that could have, at the very least, been explored in a pleasant, agreeable way. The fact that the economy is currently in the dumps also adds slightly to the film's sense of timeliness; while the struggle that Ryden (Alexis Bledel) goes through to find employment doesn't seem to be caused by a shrinking job market, the same emotional points still apply. Finally, there's also a germ of an idea in how being passed up by publishing house Happerman & Browning throws Ryden's life into disarray, because I'm sure many people's five-year plans don't turn out the way they envision them, and then what?
Post Grad doesn't care. The film is easily distracted from anything interesting by whatever strikes its fancy, as if the film was half-heartedly ad-libbed towards completion. Ryden's parents Carmella and Walter are played by the mega-awesome Jane Lynch and Michael Keaton, and for whatever reason the film spents plenty of time with them, as well as Ryden's little brother Hunter (Bobby Coleman), and Walter's mother Maureen (Carol Burnett). Topics include Walter's decision to sell belt buckles for money (a confusing plan, as he has a perfectly good job at a seemingly upscale luggage store) and the legal way it turns on him, a small rivalry between Carmella and Maureen over money Maureen is trying to spend on a pimped-out coffin for herself, and Hunter's decision to lick the heads of kids at his school and his desire to build a derby car for a race at a PTA function. None of these events involve Ryden in any way other than that of a passive bystander, advance the plot in even a remotely meaningful way, or are any good. Post Grad only musters 88 minutes worth of running time, which is awfully short when you subtract the credits, and a good 20 of those minutes are made up with this deadweight nonsense.
Nonetheless, standing head and shoulders above these threads as the movie's worst diversion is the friendship (or perhaps ROMANCE??!?!!?!!!1) between Ryden and longtime best friend Adam (Zach Gilford). I really have no idea, but I'm gonna guess that I've watched some 5,000 movies in my life, and a significant percentage of those movies (I'd venture as high as 15%, if not more) probably contain a budding relationship between best friends, and I don't even watch a particularly high quotient of romantic comedies. That said, I certainly don't remember all of them, but off the top of my head, it's very possible that I have never hated this story more than I hated it in Post Grad. Gilford and Bledel have the opposite of chemistry, the mechanism's existence in the movie is beyond obligatory, and the conflicts that delay it are hair-pullingly unoriginal. Literally, the exact same thing that happens in Post Grad happens in Josie and the Pussycats, for heaven's sake, with the would-be boyfriend getting stood up at a bar gig (Gabriel Mann even looks similar to Gilford).
And these are just the plot threads. Post Grad continues its assault on my love of cinema with a cat-gets-run-over scene, a low-rent-pet-funeral scene (comedic blend, as opposed to heartwearming), a caught-trying-to-have-sex scene, an embarrassing-family-members-loudly-enter-quiet-proceedings scene, an encounter-with-nemesis-while-working-embarrassingly-crappy-job scene, an extraordinary-apology scene, a big-race scene (complete with wacky comedic finish), and more, all delivered without the slightest bit of innovation or creativity. No, Jenson's "creativity" brings us moments like the excruciating video blog that opens the movie, while Fremon's innovation may have consisted of the "Klondike bar" bit, in which a Klondike bar is the solution to all of the world's problems. A supposedly emotional scene where a crying kid bites into one of the treats and his mood does a 180 almost had me doing a double-take: this is the movie's big epiphany scene?
Those who read my reviews will know that I am a fairly lenient critic, willing to praise anything in which I can find something to enjoy. Post Grad has defeated me, down to the very last forgiving bone in my body, and it did so within the first five minutes, as I saw the title slide on-screen, accompanied by wacky sound effects. And despite all of the other things that occur during this phenomenal travesty, the movie still finds time to waste the talents of Craig Robinson. If I hadn't been obligated to watch it, I'd almost be impressed.
The DVD, Video and Audio
20th Century Fox provided one of their usual single-layer DVD-R screeners, so no judging of the A/V specs or packaging is possible (and, you know, given my reception of the film, I kinda doubt Fox is going to send me final copy). However, when that DVD arrives on shelves, it will almost certainly include a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation, along with Dolby Digital 5.1, French and Spanish Dolby 2.0, English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing, and Spanish subtitles.
First up, a series of ten deleted and alternate scenes (13:37) actually contains a stretch of 30 seconds in which something funny happens (!), a take in which J.K. Simmons plays a little joke. The rest of them are pretty much forgettable, although not quite as excruciating as some of what was left in the final product, which is bizarre. I did have to skip the last one, a music video of one of the terrible songs Gilford sings, but then the music video (3:35) for "One Day" by Jack Savoretti is next, on the main menu, so my effort was in vain.
The bulk of the bonus features are made up of 6 featuretes, including "Real Life Advice with Alexis Bledel & Zach Gilford" (4:21), "Know Your Strengths: Career Advice" (6:01), "How Not to Get a Job" (3:29), "A Guide to Moving Back Home" (2:58), "Dress For Success" (2:03), and "Post Grad Confidential" (:). The first featurette is actually surprising in how it illustrates that Bledel and Gilford actually do have a perfectly friendly repartee when not being forced to deliver insipid dialogue. The second is a little bizarre; Fox has wheeled in an author to give legitimate interviewing tips, which are strongly directed at young women. The next three are barely featurettes, they're actually reels of footage from the movie accompanied by no-brainer "tips" (totally skippable). The last one is the actual making-of featurette, which, sadly, illustrates how much hands-on input producer Ivan Reitman had on this movie. I may have grown up on Ghostbusters, and would die before considering skipping a Ghostbusters III on opening day, but seeing him talk about Post Grad really doesn't give me a whole lot of faith.
Finally, "Find Your Match! The Best Job For You" and "What Not to Wear" are, in fact, set-top quiz games. My mind sort of boggles that they're actually still including this kind of thing on DVDs, but here it is. I spent a whole minute taking the first one, and it told me to work at a magazine. Go figure.
Trailers for (500) Days of Summer, Adam, All About Steve, and Jennifer's Body play before the main menu, while additional spots for Whip It!, Fame, Flicka 2, Amelia and "Watch Romantic Favorites" are available at the end of the special features menu. No trailer for Post Grad has been included, but, as I mentioned, you can find it on pretty much every other romantic comedy Fox released on DVD in the last year.
Even if you too are sitting on the couch, surrounded by the classifieds, wondering about all of the millions of things you might end up doing with your future, make sure, absolutely, at all costs, that viewing Post Grad is not one of them. Skip it like the plague.
Please check out my other DVDTalk DVD, Blu-Ray and theatrical reviews and/or follow me on Twitter.