The Next Three Days (Rated PG-13)  4 stars

The Next Three Days (122 minutes) is actually a remake of a French movie, which totally makes sense after seeing it. Director Paul Haggis manages to capture something not quite American, although most of the famed French subtly is missing. The plot, as presented, is fairly direct.

12-22-10-movie-review.gifLara Brennan (Elizabeth Banks) looks good as a blonde. In the opening scenes she manages to project a general irritation common to the privileged pampered higher-ups when they are faced with completely inferior examples of whatever it is they think they are. It turns out that her general irritation is focused on her sister-in-law Erit (Moran Atias) for having opinions that she does not agree with. Her defensiveness apparently stems from a fight with her own female higher-up earlier that day, and the argument currently ruining a pleasant meal involves the opinion that women should not work for women, but that any other combination is OK.

Not to sell out my feminist roots, but I have heard endless horror stories about psychofemme bosses crapping on their employees AND I have experiences that involve subordinate women smiling to my face to distract me from the knife they are sliding into my spine. But let’s keep our perspectives … a bad boss is a bad boss, and that has nothing to do with gender. A lousy employee is a lousy employee, whether they’re working for a man or a woman. And since sucking at your job seems to occur regardless of how many X chromosomes you carry, Erit can be safely ignored. The fact that Lara needs to argue with someone who she doesn’t like, respect, or need to see more than occasionally says more about her own self-righteousness than it does about anything else. It also serves as a pretty character-establishing opening scene, since she goes from nearly punching her sister-in-law to a little after dinner make-out time in her husband’s ridiculously tiny front seat.

Anyway, the next day Lara and her husband John (Russell Crowe) are enjoying a leisurely upper-middle-class breakfast. They are doing that thing where parents take a picture at the same time every day so they can digitalize the image and have 10 years of growth distilled into one minute of footage that illustrates how your kids looked before, and after, they started to hate you.

It turns out they didn’t need nearly that much footage. Luke (Ty Simpkins) is seconds away from severe maladjustment and the loss of a happy childhood, since once the police break in and arrest mommy for murder they might as well buy the kid a stripper pole so he can start practicing for when he hits18.

Thankfully, we do not have to sit through a big complicated trial scene. All the evidence points towards Lara’s guilt until even her lawyer (Daniel Stern) isn’t willing to pursue appeals. Lara takes the news hard, which sets John off on a Quixotic journey to learn how to make a bump key, break into and out of a Pittsburgh jail, create a scrapbook/ escape plan on his office wall, liquidate his assets, get fake identification, destroy a meth lab, and ruin his child’s chances for a life that even slightly approaches normal. Also, Liam Neeson shows up! Wouldn’t it suck if it turned out Lara was guilty all along?

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