A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
We begin with the presence of Richard E. Grant. He smiles but is somehow shifty. He doesn't seem like a leading man in a comedy about raising a baby. He isn't smooth, dependable and cuddly. He is, in fact, edgy and short-tempered,and appallingly self-centered. No Hollywood casting director would think twice before rejecting him for the lead in "Jack & Sarah." That is why he makes such an interesting choice, and why the movie rises above its formula origins to become perversely interesting.
You may have seen Grant before, although his name may not come immediately to mind. He was the co-star of "Withnail & I" (1987), as a desperately bitter, angry, unemployed actor. In "How to Get Ahead in Advertising" (1989), his misery was so great that it produced a boil on his shoulder that eventually developed a mind of its own. In "The Player," "Bram Stoker's Dracula" and "The Age of Innocence," he played varieties of ominous twits. Not, in other words, the kind of warm-hearted, Hugh Grantish, Dudley Moorish, Richard Dreyfussian lead you would expect in a movie about a selfish egotist who learns to love.
Why is Grant not the expected choice? His face is too long. His eyes are too frank. His mouth is too wry. These are, of course, excellent attributes for an actor, and will give him longevity; Richard Grant will be playing intriguing roles long after Hugh Grant has been consigned to kindly godfathers. But they are not qualities we associate with fuzzy parent figures.
Grant has, in fact, received some negative reviews for this film--mostly, I think, because he forces viewers to come to terms with him, instead of allowing them to settle into a comfortable cocoon of mindless sitcom reassurance. His presence forces the movie to be about something other than its cliches, which are many, and by the end I had become involved in his character's struggle to become a nice person.