A Family Affair

Zac Efron has moved far away from his wholesome High School Musical persona. In the past couple years, he’s played serial killer Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, a professional wrestler in The Iron Claw, and a drifter making his way across the desert in the underrated Gold. Now he’s an egotistical action movie star in A Family Affair, a film that sounds kind of stupid when you hear the plot described but delivers perfectly fine entertainment when you watch it.

Efron is Chris Cole, and he’s about to start the latest, most seemingly braindead sequel to his hit franchise. A Family Affair’s plot, however, revolves around his beleaguered personal assistant, Zara Ford (Joey King). She’s become fed up with his ultra-demanding ways and refusal to fulfill a promise to advance her career. With that in mind, she quits. Chris comes over to her house to apologize, which is where he meets her widowed mother, author Brooke Harwood (Nicole Kidman). The chemistry between them is as intense as it is immediate. Zara catches them in flagrante delicto and isn’t happy about it, so they have to hide their ongoing relationship.

Okay, that’s certainly a contrived premise. I’d argue that it’s supposed to be. This is, after all, a movie about a movie star. Embracing the manipulations of rom-coms makes sense. Writer Carrie Solomon fills it with sharp, snappy dialogue. When Zara accidentally ruins one of Chris’s expensive shirts, he screams, “It’s one of a kind! I have two of them!” Zingers like that are everywhere in the picture. Solomon also takes care to give substance to the dialogue between Chris and Brooke, allowing us to understand why they connect so strongly.

Winning performances add to the fun. Efron is hilarious as the self-obsessed Chris, yet he also develops sweet chemistry with Kidman, who nicely gets across the idea that Brooke doesn’t want to hurt her daughter. That quality lends the movie a hint of drama. On her end, Joey King is completely charming as Zara. The character is often selfish, but she makes that trait humorous rather than off-putting. All three leads do such strong work that it’s easy to care about these people and their dilemma.

Directed by Richard LaGravenese, A Family Affair is undeniably lightweight. It’s also funny and heartfelt – the kind of movie that’s perfect for those nights where you want a few good laughs without having to tax your brain too much.

out of four

A Family Affair is rated PG-13 for sexual content, partial nudity, and some strong language. The running time is 1 hour and 51 minutes.

© 2024 Mike McGranaghan