STUDIO: Screen Media
MSRP: $24.98
RUNNING TIME: 110 Minutes
Behind the Scenes featurette

The Pitch

A young wrestler meets a cougar.

Kathy Bates tries to eat her eyeballs.

The Humans

Kathy Bates, Ashton Kutcher and Michelle Pfeiffer

The Nutshell

Personal Effects is an attempt to make the world take Ashton Kutcher seriously. Cribbing notes from Paul Haggis, this film is a weak attempt at patching together a tale of how murder brings the world together. Michelle Pfeiffer phones it in, while Kutcher desperately tries to emote for the camera. Then, there’s the chicken suit. Luckily, Kathy Bates is there to try and save the day.

The Lowdown

Walter is a successful NCAA wrestler at Iowa State. He works at a local Fried Chicken joint, until his twin sister is brutally murdered. Linda is a woman that is grieving the recent murder of her husband. She struggles to raise her deaf son, while wallowing in depression. Walter and Linda hit it off like a duo of brooding individuals who could convince a Cure cover band to kill themselves.

Personal Effects plays off misguided emotion and the attempts to understand grieving. Is it grieving or is it the human ability to understand forces larger than themselves? Kathy Bates plays well as a counterpart to Kutcher’s Walter and Pfeiffer’s Linda. She tries to break apart Walter’s emotionally stunted caveman stance, while trying to make sense of the loss of her own child. Plus, she serves as an example to Linda. Your world doesn’t end when you lose a member of your immediate family. You have to move on to better things.

Kutcher is something to be seen in this film. Taking an easy role of a grieving college student to the Nth degree, Kutcher becomes this entity. He’s a walking joke in a chicken suit that can only community in grunts and other noises. He mopes, he slugs and he dredges through every moment of his life. There’s no real reason for him to connect with Linda. Linda is operating on such a higher level than him that there’s no real emphasis for their relationship. Enter Linda’s deaf son.

Clay is a deaf teenager that has recently lost his father to gun violence. Clay has no verbal means to communicate his grief, yet he comes across as more emotionally mature than Kutcher’s character. You almost want to give Clay a baseball bat and have him beat Kutcher to tears. Then, there’s his relationship with his mother played by Michelle Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer is too busy trying to play a cougar to Kutcher’s cub, that she doesn’t really how bad her child is hurting. But, what does it all mean?

Personal Effects is a film that is a directionless mess. All of the main characters float through the same spectrum, but with stunted approaches to final understanding. In a word, it’s Paul Haggis without the efforts of better actors trying to make the most out of a fledgling script. If that sounds interesting to you, then check it out. Otherwise, skip this and watch something else.

The Package

comes to you with only one special features. A quickie 15 minute romp behind the scenes while everyone tries to make sense of the narrative. Kutcher and Pfeiffer try to condense human suffering into select quips. Meanwhile, you’re wondering why you rented the DVD. Avoid at all costs.

Did you ever see Stardust, kid? Well…this will be new to you.

3.8 out of 10