Burning down the house with good feelings

You would hope that the producers of “”Life as a House”” would at least come up with a title less boring. Fortunately for the cautious moviegoer (and unfortunately for the picture), the movie proves to be every bit as blase as its name.

Kevin Kline stars as a housing artist (the kind who builds the little models for clients to see before the actual building is created) named George. George is outpaced by modern 3-D house-viewing technology and gets fired from his job only to find out he is going to die of cancer in four months.

His utterly inane life previous to these events is a divorcee in an inherited shack juxtaposed with million-dollar homes overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It has his former wife, Robin (Kristin Scott Thomas), and his drugged-out, pierced-all-over, heavy metal, stereotypical, angst-ridden 16-year-old son Sam in a richer man’s family down the street.

When diagnosed with cancer, George decides that he’s going to tear down the shack that he lives in and build a decent house before his death.

The four months conveniently encompass summer, so George drags his son into the project, to Sam’s chagrin and anger. What ensues is a predictable sequence of sappy and contrived scenes that illustrate George saving his son from prostitution, piercing and drugs, his wife from an unfeeling husband, and his own sense of pride and self-worth.

Although the movie’s sensibilities do not prevent it from humorously portraying shower scenes between Sam and attractive neighborhood girl Alyssa (Jena Malone), the movie’s message is not only hindered by its acceptance of conventional standards of morality, but it seems to advance the cause of conventional morality without any sort of justification or logic. It’s a sappy, feel-good movie for people who want their ideas about the world justified by pop culture.

While movies like “”American Beauty”” make profound statements because they justify an ambiguous stance without resorting to a prepackaged group of scenes and morals, “”Life as a House”” gets lumped into the same group as movies like “”Fight Club.”” These films are all well and good for their genre and for the people who appreciate the same core values as their respective producers, but inane, immature and trite for the rest of us.

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