The Comedy of Manhattan Parenting, Wasted, in The Best and the Brightest


The Best and the Brightest
Directed by Josh Shelov
Opens June 24, Quad Cinema

In this Manhattan-set comedy of errors that’s seriously more error than comedy, Neil Patrick Harris and Bonnie Somerville play a barely middle-class couple who are presumably living beyond their means and contemplating whether they should give up and hightail it back to small-town Delaware. Still, they’re unwaveringly convinced that their tyke deserves a spot in one of the top private kindergartens after the application deadlines have passed (the gag being that the wait list is filled by still-pregnant mommies), forcing them to find a loophole with the help of a sassy, goofball consultant (a gung-ho Amy Sedaris, funnier than the material deserves). A single lie to a headmistress, that Harris’s tongue-tied computer programmer is actually a distinguished poet, snowballs into an increasingly outlandish, vulgar, clichéd farce in which a pervy friend’s online sex chats are misconstrued as said poetry, further dodging the film’s potential for sharp post-gentrification satire. Drearily shot with cheesy skyline pans, oppressively scored with Hallmark cutesiness, and oddly filled with filthy one-liners, cowriter-director Josh Shelov’s Tootsie-inspired ode to big-city determination is such a tonal mishmash that, if the Lifetime TV network ever dropped its decency standards and decided to work blue, here’s one for Sweeps Week.

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