All In Good Time, Nigel Cole, 93 mins (12A)
How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Adrian Grunberg, 96 mins (15)
Jeff, Who Lives At Home, Jay and Mark Duplass, 83 mins (15)

If you're heading down Mexico way, Mel, make sure you've got a return ticket

The question that's usually prompted by the British film industry's more feeble offerings is, "How did this get funded?" But All In Good Time must have seemed a safe bet. It's directed by Nigel Cole, who made Calendar Girls, and it's scripted by Ayub Khan-Din, who wrote East Is East, so the producers must have assumed it would be ... well, a colourful, crowd-pleasing comedy drama. They wouldn't have expected a film as boring and hollow as this one.

Still, the premise was always going to cause problems. The film's hero and heroine are Anglo-Indian newlyweds, Reece Ritchie and Amara Karan, who move in with Ritchie's parents, Meera Syal and Harish Patel. They've been saving themselves for marriage, but a cancelled honeymoon, and Ritchie's self-consciousness about being just a plasterboard wall away from his mum and dad, mean that days and then weeks pass without their nuptials being consummated. All of this is handled with as little bawdiness as possible – disappointingly, you might say – but given the subject matter, it's still not a movie you can take the whole family to.

It's also an extremely thin idea from which to hang an entire film. Khan-Din and Cole could have bulked it up by developing Ritchie and Karan's personalities, or by surrounding them with a fascinating supporting cast, but every character is two-dimensional, at most, and the dialogue is as flat as a chapati, even though Khan-Din adapted the screenplay from his own hit play, Rafta Rafta. As a result, All In Good Time moves so slowly that the title starts to seem ironic.

In comparison, Mel Gibson's new film How I Spent My Summer Vacation, seems like a triumph – and it didn't even get a cinema release in the US. Gibson stars as a career criminal who ends up in a Mexican jail that could be mistaken for a shanty town. It's a terrific setting for a thriller, but the film doesn't quite live up to it. The cartoonish action jars with the real-life squalor and suffering, and it's a teensy bit jingoistic to have an American outsmarting the Mexicans at every turn. Set against that, though, is an unusually cynical anti-hero, and such richness of plot and detail that it could almost have been adapted from an Elmore Leonard novel. Summer Vacation feels less like a vehicle for a billionaire superstar than a tough, pugnacious little indie flick that's punching above its weight.

Gibson has undoubtedly starred in worse films than this, although one of them – M Night Shyamalan's Signs – is a touchstone for the titular hero of Jeff, Who Lives At Home. Played by Jason Segel, he's a gentle, 30-year-old slacker who smokes pot on his mother's couch all day, which could be why he interprets Signs as a testament to the universe's power to reveal his hidden destiny. When he's supposed to be out buying wood-glue for his long-suffering mother (Susan Sarandon), he drifts off instead on an odyssey around suburban Louisiana, bumping into his disapproving brother, Ed Helms, and his frustrated sister-in-law, Judy Greer.

Considering that its leading men have starred in such big, raucous comedies as The Hangover and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Jeff ... is an appealingly low-key and laidback charmer that focuses on the everyday dissatisfactions of ordinary people. Some of the cutesy quirkiness is off-putting, mind you. From now on, xylophones should be banned from the soundtrack of every film which isn't a biopic of Patrick Moore.

 

Next week

Nicholas Barber prepares to bow down before The Dictator, starring Sacha Baron Cohen

Also showing (13/05/2012)

Faust (134 mins, 15)

Alexander Sokurov (Russian Ark) conjures up a mesmeric atmosphere for his surreal Goethe adaptation. But any viewers hoping for comprehensible narrative will soon lose patience, or consciousness.

 

Beloved (135 mins, 15)

Christophe Honoré's episodic musical spans four decades – and it feels like it. Ludivine Sagnier plays the heroine in her younger years; Catherine Deneuve takes over for her older ones.

 

Café de Flore (115 mins, 15)

The second of this week's films to feature both 1960s Paris and contemporary Montreal, Café de Flore has two strong storylines, but it resorts to trite mysticism to link them.

 

Charlie Casanova (94 mins, 18)

Unwatchably incompetent Irish film about a homicidal businessman. Nicholas Barber

Critic’s choice

A man, his beard and the Great Outdoors. Two Years at Sea is the portrait of hermit Jake Williams, and a stunning handmade reverie from British artist/documentarian Ben Rivers. Goodbye First Love sees the return of the French prodigy Mia Hansen-Love (Father of my Children). Here, she offers an autobiographical drama about sex, love, coming of age ... and architecture.

Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
books
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
books
Arts and Entertainment
The man with the golden run: Daniel Craig as James Bond in 'Skyfall'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Waving Seal' by Luke Wilkinson was Highly Commended in the Portraits category

photography
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering