Lawrence Wetherhold (Dennis Quaid) is an arrogant, depressed widower who has managed to alienate nearly everyone in his life. Both his colleagues and students hate him, which is a major sticking point in his quest to become Chair of the English Department. His home life isn't much better. Although his son, James (Ashton Holmes) goes to Carnegie Mellon, he chooses to live in a dorm and spend as little time with his father as possible. His daughter, Vanessa (Ellen Page), is incredibly smart, yet socially clueless. When she's not studying, she's attending Young Republicans meetings or doting on every aspect of her father's career - all that and she still manages to have dinner on the table every night.
Just when the family can't get any more disconnected, Lawrence's lazy, adopted step-brother, Chuck (Thomas Haden Church) blows into town looking for money and a place to stay. Lawrence refuses until a concussion bars him from driving, causing Chuck to become his chauffeur. While at the hospital, Lawrence also meets a former student, Janet (Sarah Jessica Parker), and the two begin dating.
Although the synopsis would lead you to believe that Smart People has a plot, it is a largely aimless movie that mostly just goes through the motions. There are a few interesting moments, though whenever things start to heat up, the fire is immediately put out by one of the characters. While that is partially the point of the movie, there isn't much of a resolution to any of the family's problems. Again, just when things seem like they're moving towards an end, the movie abruptly ends. Even the inclusion of cast and crew commentary doesn't help shed light on where the movie is trying to go.
Despite a great cast, none of the characters are particularly likeable. Lawrence is an ass, Janet is as interesting as drying paint and Chuck is little more than a stereotype. Even though Ellen Page turns in a great performance, Vanessa is just a socially inept, charmless version of Juno. The only likeable character is James, but only because you rarely see him.
The included extras are just as lackluster as the movie. There's a reason the deleted scenes were left out of the final cut and the commentary is pointless. The only semi-enjoyable aspect is the blooper reel since it has some personality.
Though billed as a comedy, there isn't much to laugh at with Smart People. The plot lacks direction, the story does everything it can to remain uninteresting and the characters are dull. Even as a rental, Smart People is probably best left sulking in the corner.