You can't help but like John Krasinski.
He's basically Jim Halpert, for goodness sake, the guy Pam Beesly and the rest of the world fell for on The Office. Krasinski's likability translates onscreen, and critics agree his charm shines through in his new movie, The Hollars.
The family dramedy is Krasinski's second time directing (his debut came with 2009's Brief Interviews With Hideous Men), so he's pulling double duty behind and in front of the camera. He plays an unsatisfied graphic artist named John Hollar who leaves New York City and returns to his small hometown when his mom Sally Hollar (Margo Martindale) is diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor. His brother (Sharlto Copley) is still living at home with John's mother and father (Richard Jenkins), which leads to some household tension. At the same time, John's longtime girlfriend Rebecca (Anna Kendrick) is pregnant and waiting for him back in NYC, but he's not so sure he's ready to commit to marriage.
There's a consensus among many reviewers that Jim Strouse's script falls flat at times, but The Hollars' talented cast makes up for that. As the New York Times' Neil Genzlinger writes, "...the performers, especially Ms. Martindale and the jittery Mr. Copley, keep it enjoyable, even touching at times." And while Genzlinger finds that "too much happens too quickly in The Hollars for the story to be credible," the movie, "at least deserves some kind of eclectic-casting award."
RogerEbert.com's Matt Zoller Seitz had some complaints about The Hollars' plot and execution, but ultimately gave it two and a half stars. As he writes, "The star rating on this review would have been lower if not for the core cast—especially Jenkins, who turns out to be one of the greatest of screen criers, and Martindale, whose honeyed bourbon drawl is pure magic—and three scenes that are so perfectly judged that they nearly redeem the film's missteps."
Rolling Stone's Peter Travers writes that The Hollars "lacks the provocative material" of Krasinski's directorial debut, but praises the "exemplary" cast. As Travers notes, "Some critics have dismissed The Hollars as a throwaway. Maybe it is. But it goes down easy. And its aim is true."
Collider's Adam Chitwood agrees, writing, "You ever see one of those movies that you know is conventional, understand is nothing you haven't seen before, but like it anyway? That's The Hollars..." Chitwood notes Krasinski "is so damn charming in the lead role of John that it's easy to care about this guy, and as a filmmaker he's put together a tremendous cast anchored by Martindale and Kendrick."
"It's nothing new," Chitwood reiterates, "and it falls short of profundity, but it's emotionally genuine, warmly funny, and charming as all get-out. Sometimes, that's enough."
The Hollars opens in theaters Friday.