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'Smart People'

The folks on screen don't seem all that smart in Smart People — and the folks behind the camera couldn't possibly be, or their dysfunctional-romance dramedy would play more persuasively.

The story involves a widowed English Lit prof (Dennis Quaid) and a former student (Sarah Jessica Parker) who's evidently carried a torch for him all the way through medical school, though you'd never guess from their tepid onscreen chemistry. Quaid's character is bored, miserable and contemptuous of everyone, from his current students to his Young Republican daughter (Ellen Page) and his belligerently charming ne'er-do-well of a brother (Thomas Haden Church).

Why any of them would put up with him for more than 10 minutes is anyone's guess; certainly audiences seem unlikely to bother.

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Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.
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