Featuring as it does one of those precociously intelligent brats of a child which the cinema just lurves to show us, and which I just cannot abide to see, I wouldn't have touched this film with a barge-pole had it not been for some exceptionally favourable reviews - as well as the ever-positive presence of Lindsay Duncan which finally tipped the balance.
Chris Evans is a name I know but couldn't put a face to - and here, I must say, he looks pretty hot - and he acts quite convincingly too. He's been in quite a number of films but they're nearly all popcorn-fodder blockbusters in 'The Avengers' mode, none of which I've seen.
Here he plays the Florida-resident uncle and guardian of seven-year old Mary (the said clever-clogs little twerp - played appropriately cringingly by McKenna Grace and who has a one-eyed ginger cat as a pet). She's the child of his maths-prodigy sister who had her as a result of a brief relationship and who shortly afterwards committed suicide, he taking on the role of surrogate father because, he maintains, that's what his sister would have wanted. Their own English mother (Lindsay Duncan) disowned his sister when the pregnancy became known, wanting nothing to do with the child. The infant has inherited her mother's genius and prodigious talent for mental arithmetic, and it shows up on her first day at school when she's bored out of her mind with her classmates being asked to add two plus two when she's already been doing calculus and solving quadratic equations. (Well, wouldn't you be bored?). When word gets around about her abilities, her uncle-guardian, wanting the girl to lead a 'normal' life, refuses the chance to put her in a special academy which would make optimum use of her rare talent. His mother, on hearing of the child's position, unexpectedly turns up on her son's doorstep, now taking an interest in her grand-daughter, and thinks it would be better if she took over the role of primary carer, removing her back with her to Massachusetts. The Chris Evans character disagrees, of course, and a court case ensues over the child's guardianship.
Lindsay Duncan, apart from her English accent, (can't she do American?) is practically unrecognisable in her superficially 'Americanised' persona - bouffant, flowing wig plus manner of fashion-dressing which would give her away in her home country as being conspicuously something which very few mature English women could get away with. But still, she's magnificent.
I was dreading that the little girl would, as so any films featuring children of this age do, be dripping pearls of wisdom way beyond her years, and which would teach the adults around her all about life. Thankfully, there's very little of that aspect - but her prodigious mental superiority alone is quite enough to be getting on with.
The film's plotline follows very much the same as we've seen before so many times, though instead of two squabbling parents here we have a mother fighting with her son over custody of the grand-daughter.
Another of my cinema aversions is all-too evident - a mushy, over-bearingly sentimental, often-present, mood-setting soundtrack, including no less than two songs, dammit! Insufferable!
Director is Marc Webb, who did both the 'Amazing Spiderman' films. His contribution here doesn't spring any surprises or give any particularly memorable touches.
I've no doubt that those who are not bothered by the several put-offs that I've delineated will think more highly of this film than I did. Most younger people will not recognise it as being over-formulaic because most of them will not have seen quite as many films as I have. For these reasons, if you're not turned away by what I say you may well enjoy it. As for me, I must be honest.............4.
4 hours ago