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'A Family Affair' review: Efron and Kidman headline muted (but watchable) Netflix comedy

Courtesy of Netflix


It’s only fitting that one month removed from Amazon Prime’s “The Idea of You” wherein Anne Hathaway played a single mom who fell in love with a celebrity half her age, that Netflix would follow in their shoes with “A Family Affair” wherein Nicole Kidman plays a single mom who also falls in love with a celebrity almost half her age. That celeb would be teen heartthrob Zac Efron who, unlike Nicholas Galitzine, is somewhat of a major movie star and thus seeing him play one isn’t that much of a stretch. And, unlike “The Idea of You,” this latest Netflix vehicle lacks the passion or steamy romance by comparison.


Efron plays Chris Cole, a very famous actor known for headlining a schlocky Marvel-adjacent franchise that’s running on fumes heading into its third installment. The film opens with a montage of the actor running away from paparazzi and then dumping his current girlfriend (as he always does when he feels someone getting close to him) by giving her the same pair of earrings he gives every break-up-ee. He keeps his overworked and underpaid assistant Zara (Joey King) on her toes by consistently making silly demands like ordering $500 dollar lotion from Japan for his elbows or forcing her to write an apology letter every time she makes him upset. Rinse and repeat.


Chris often bemoans about how he can’t live a “normal” life and doesn’t have any close friends within his orbit. The poor thing just can’t be himself! That is until he meets Brooke (Kidman), an accomplished author who is also Zara’s mother (talk about a conflict of interest). Drawn together by their circumstances, Brooke and Chris become romantically involved, much to the dismay of Zara who knows how Chris operates and is afraid he’ll break her mother’s heart. This makes for some cliché, predictable hijinks that writer Carrie Solomon occasionally molds into a few endearing chuckles. It helps Efron and Kidman seem to be game and having a good time with one another. A key component that made “The Idea of You” better than the average rom-com. 


But “The Idea of You” also explored the boundaries of a celebrity relationship and how that can leave an impact on family and friends, while touching on the deeper vulnerabilities of the characters Hathaway and Gallitzin played. None such insight exists here, and the movie spends an odd amount of time on Zara who can never seem to get over the fact that maybe Chris is capable of change and actually wants to have an honest relationship with her mother? 


It’s all gooey schmaltz and the Netflix algorithm will serve this up to the targeted demo with relative ease. It’s what we call the “laundry” movie. You know, the type of low-stakes, minimal investment comedy where you can just do chores around the house and fold laundry and not worry about missing anything of importance. Director Richard LaGravenese understands what this movie is and who it’s for. Which is more than what some Netflix films can say about themselves. You know who you are.


Grade: C 


A FAMILY AFFAIR debuts on Netflix Friday, July 27th


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