By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
During the screening I attended, the Seattle International Film Festival audience for “The Grand Seduction” was chortling and sighing at all the right moments. The picture went over so big it had me worrying that some people might think this is the sort of movie you should see at a film festival.
It’s not. For all its super-nice intentions, attractive players and right-thinking messages, this thing might’ve come out of a can.
It is, literally, from formula: This version is an English-language remake of a 2003 French-Canadian film, “Seducing Dr. Lewis,” written by Ken Scott. He’s becoming an industry at this kind of thing: His fertility-clinic comedy “Starbuck” had its recent Hollywood remake as a Vince Vaughn vehicle, “Delivery Man.”
What we have here is some real Northern exposure: A dying Canadian harbor town will see its only shot at landing a new factory shrivel away unless a full-time doctor settles there. The local fishing industry’s broken, but the movie mostly blames government regulation, not overfishing.
By hook and crook, they get a young M.D. (Taylor Kitsch) to take a month’s residency; now every townsperson must connive to convince the guy this is the only place to live. (One good gag: They keep leaving $5 bills lying about for the doc to find — because who doesn’t love free money?)
The town is, unfortunately, called Tickle Point. At this level of relentless sugar candy, it could hardly be anything else. Director Don (“Last Night”) McKellar’s participation, given his previously dark-hued comedy output, suggests a surrender to wholesomeness.
I’m sorry to say that the great Brendan Gleeson is the leader of the Tickle Point conspiracy, supported by Canadian legend Gordon Pinsent (“Away from Her”) in the Wilford Brimley crusty-curmudgeon role. A relaxed Taylor Kitsch comes off rather well (he looks far more comfortable here than he did in the blockbuster haze of “John Carter” and “Battleship”), perhaps because he isn’t shamelessly twinkling at every turn.
The French-language original was just as overbearing. Of that one, I wrote, “(It) needs a dash of brine to put it in the ‘Local Hero’ category,” and seeing this version just confirms how wonderfully “Local Hero” carried insight and beauty beneath its whimsy.
But something else relegates “The Grand Seduction” to truly annoying status. The promised factory will be built by a petrochemical corporation, which demands a huge illegal bribe for blessing Tickle Point with its future presence there.
But this is no Frank Capra picture, where the rich and the corrupt will get their comeuppance by the end. Tickle Point will pay the bribe, and bring in the oil guys. This is what passes for a feel-good movie.
“The Grand Seduction” (1 1/2 stars)
A sugary tale of a small Canadian harbor town that needs to lure a doctor (Taylor Kitsch) so they can land a new factory. The movie’s so busy being adorable it fails to notice the implications of its supposedly happy ending. Co-starring Brendan Gleeson.
Rating: PG-13, for language, subject matter
Showing: Guild 45th