Hector And The Search For Happiness Never Finds A Tone — Or A Point.
Hector and the Search for Happiness.
Director: Peter Chelsom.
Writer: Maria von Heland, Peter Chelsom, Tinker Lindsay.
Cast: Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, Stellan Skarsgard, Jean Reno, Barry Atsma, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer.
Where it's playing: Angelika Dallas, Angelika Plano, AMC NorthPark.
Like The Bucket List, Yes Man and Eat Pray Love before it, Hector and the Search for Happiness is a movie about an insufferable prick going on a journey to find him or herself.
And, as a film, this one's even worse than its precursors. It's just a self-indulgent mess that feels wholly unnecessary — especially since it's basically a retread of last year's much-better Secret Life of Walter Mitty reboot. But whereas that movie was truly a fantasy come to life, this one's just got one guy wandering around exotic locales like an intrusive tourist.
What a waste of Simon Pegg, a gifted comic actor and genuine nice guy, who's fully out of his depth here as the title character. The script does him no favors: It can't decide decide whether to make Hector a lovable grump, a nice bloke in need of focus or just a boring guy who could use some excitement.
Another problem — keeping in mind, of course, that you can't always see everyone's issues — is that Hector's life really doesn't seem all that bad. He's got a good job. He volunteers. He's got a supportive, lovely girlfriend (Rosamund Pike). The audience never has much reason to believe that he’s empty inside, living a life that isn't quite living up to his expectations. The guy's got some things to learn, sure. But mostly, he just needs to get over it and realize that no one's life is going to be perfect.
Seems no on in Hector's world has that bit of know-how, though. Well, not until the end of the film, at least. But you saw that coming, didn't you? Of course you did.
Still, before all that, Pegg's character jaunts around the globe without an itinerary or any rules, jetting off to China and experiencing the nightlife with a banker (Stellan Skarsgard) who's so cartoonishly awful that I’m surprised he didn't try to foreclose on a widow’s home while chomping on a cigar. Later, in another one of many unexplained and inscrutable scenes, Hector spends a night with and falls in love with a woman he meets at a bar who turns out to be a prostitute. Words are exchanged, he gets slapped and then we just never see her again. Then he goes to Africa, talks to some sick kids, pats himself on the back and, rather inexplicably, gets kidnapped by a local warlord. Again: None of this really gets explained or brought up again. It’s just another kooky adventure Hector goes on.
And it all leads up to a final such adventure, which finds Hector meeting up with an old flame (Toni Collette) who's now married with two kids and one on the way. In one of the few genuine moments in the whole film — mainly due to the fact that it isn't a montage or some lame excuse to add in some quirky little special effects, but also because she may or may not end up being the first person to finally call Hector on his shit and tell him what he needs to hear. (Spoiler alert: Yup, she's totally that person. Weird that she just so happened to be his final stop!)
All the same, and somewhat piously, the audience is still spoon-fed at least 15 different “keys to happiness” along the way, even though they're all things people should know already — like, say, that you shouldn't complain so much and you should probably not be a self-absorbed asshole all the time.
If you really need Simon Pegg to tell you all of this, I pity you. As for everyone else: Want to be happy? Don't waste your time or money on this movie.