Verona and Burt are having a baby. But where? Where is a support system? Where would the lifestyle be right for raising a child?
"I want her childhood to be Huck Finn-y," Burt offers. Verona is equally idealistic. But being the mom-to-be, she's also pragmatic.
"We're 34 and we don't even have this basic stuff worked out, like where to live."
There's a sly subversion to Away We Go, the Sam Mendes (American Beauty) road comedy written by novelists Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida. Burt (John Krasinski, funny and sweet) and Verona (Maya Rudolph, droll and sentimental) make comically uneasy tour guides through an America of liberal parenting and a "Me Generation" run amok. With each city they visit, each family they catch up with, they find more behaviors to avoid, more reasons to add responsibility to lives that haven't had a lot up until now.
Her parents are dead, but his (the hysterical Jeff Daniels and Catherine O'Hara) are the first clue. They're moving to Belgium. No thought about the grandkid-to-be. "It's always been our dream!"
Burt and Verona travel to Arizona, where her former colleague (Allison Janney, a stitch) shows off the boozy, laissez-faire parenting model. In Madison, Wis., Burt's friend Ellen (Maggie Gyllenhaal) has changed her name to "LN" and dabbles in a "continuum home" (everybody in the same bed) with a "no separation, no sugar, no strollers" ethos.
But there are poignant moments mixed with the wacky, a sadness that underlies the sprawling, multiethnic family of friends in Montreal, a brother in Miami whose wife left him with a daughter, sure that this selfish act means she'll "never fit in."
Krasinski (The Office) and Rudolph (formerly of Saturday Night Live) make a complementary couple. He gets the big comic meltdown, she delivers the wistful touches.
The writers aren't bound to any road-comedy conventions, and they aren't shy about flipping their satiric comedy end over end in its wise and warm third act. It's a bit broad, and some of the changes in tone can seem abrupt. But Away We Go makes a nice metaphor for a rootless, self-involved culture of parents trying to get it right and getting all the wrong advice as they do.