“Hector and the Search for Happiness” is a feel-good movie. There is not one positive thing about it in terms of writing, acting, directing, scoring, or anything else that factors into the craft of filmmaking. Nothing stands out after having seen it. The music was poorly chosen, the writing was subpar, and the directing did nothing to elevate the already stale, saccharine subject material. But when it’s over and you walk out of the theater, you’ll be left with a fuzzy feeling inside…for about five minutes, until you fully comprehend the uninspired summer filler you just watched.
Simon Pegg stars as Hector, a proper psychiatrist with a proper girlfriend (Rosamund Pike) and a proper practice and a proper life. Nothing’s out of the ordinary and that’s just the way he likes it. One day, however, he begins to feel empty, unfulfilled. He undergoes a journey around the world in an attempt to do research on just what makes people happy. Along the way he meets a greedy, materialistic banker (Stellan Skarsgard), a drug dealer (Jean Reno,) and a renowned psychologist (Christopher Plummer), among others.
Such a plot might seem thin and contrived, but don’t worry, it is. The film meanders from scene to scene, most of which see Simon Pegg being confused by the customs of foreign countries. Early in the film Pegg informs a colleague of his decision to visit China in his quest for happiness. He hears the vibrations of a gong, only to find that it’s really just a plate spinning around on the hospital floor. This subtle racism might seem out of place in a movie like this, but don’t worry, it is. And it is only one of a series of bizarre scenes, awkward tonal shifts, and out-of-left-field plot points that serve only to lengthen the film’s runtime. If there’s one thing this movie doesn’t need to be, it’s longer.
The simplicity of the film is what bogs it down, making it so bland and hard to enjoy that the jokes fall flat, the characters are uninteresting, and the message itself – that happiness comes from spontaneity – is so old and overdone that it does little to justify the film being made in the first place. There’s nothing to take seriously; the stakes are never high. At the beginning of the film, as she is putting away Hector’s socks, Rosamund Pike finds, in the drawer, a picture of Hector with an old girlfriend, played by Toni Collette. This sparks the “conflict,” that she believes Hector is falling out of love and becoming bored with her. Let’s forget that the picture would have been found long before if it had always been in the sock drawer into which the laundry is constantly being shuffled around. The artificiality of the conflict prevents the viewer from truly caring. The outcome is so predictable, and the approach taken so unoriginal, that the by the half-way point you’re left constantly checking your phone, hoping that maybe you feel asleep and the time will have jumped ahead an hour.
But it’s a feel-good movie. “Feel-good” is a term often used to justify enjoying a clichéd, hackneyed piece of art. “Sure it’s nothing ground-breaking, but it’s such a feel-good movie, and if you don’t like it you must have no heart!” There is a difference, though, between “feel-good” and “good.” This movie is so dry and bereft of originality that there is simply no reason to like it. It’s most egregious offense, however, is that, boasting the talents of Simon Pegg, it simply isn’t funny.
“Hector and the Search for Happiness” is a nearly worthless film. Pegg and his co-stars do the best they can to make the film even the slightest bit enjoyable, but uninspired writing and directing make that impossible. The film is weighed down by the fact that it has nothing to say. It is, however, a “feel-good” movie. Watch it if you wish, but it won’t be long before you realize what a pointless, vapid exercise it was.
By Lucas Dispoto