Year Released: 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 95 minutes
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After losing his job, David (Joe Boyd) sinks into a swift depression. Worried about him, roommate Ben (Benjamin Keller) suggests that David hire life coach Joyce (Rebecca St. James), and David reluctantly does (after being tricked into meeting her). As David finds himself having romantic feelings for Joyce, he agrees to work with her at a retirement community where she volunteers. It is there that David comes face-to-face with his rival for Joyce’s heart, his ex-boss William (Hunter Shepard).
Seeing an opportunity to make things more interesting, retiree Albert (Bobby Rodgers) begins manipulating the two men against each other. At the same time, David begins to see things differently, realizing that there’s more to himself, and his previously ignored artistic talents, than he’s ever imagined. As unexpected fallout from his romantic competition with William threatens to derail his life again, David is put in a position where he must either continue down the sad path he’s long been walking, or embrace a new way of looking at his life.
Brad Wise’s A Strange Brand of Happy is pleasant enough. It eschews the raunch of many a modern adult comedy for playful sarcasm, steering clear of anything too offensive. There’s a spiritual message to be found within as well. Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with going a more family-friendly route with your adult romantic comedy, but its relative safety also makes for a somewhat bland experience.
Not a bad experience, mind you, just not the kind you write home about. There’s never really any drama or concern that guy won’t eventually get girl, or that things will ever get all that bad for anyone, so there aren’t any stakes to get too concerned over. The film is put together well, everyone acts fine. It’s just a middle-of-the-road, “okay” movie.
The humor is often of a sarcastic variety, but it’s never mean-spirited. When it goes for madcap or nutty, it goes just crazy enough to bring attention to itself, but doesn’t overly commit to outright absurdity. Romantic sentiments are sweet, with the more lustful or lascivious tones left under the surface, or aroused only when someone is obviously intoxicated and not behaving properly. There’s nothing in this film that is any worse than your average prime time sitcom; it’s probably cleaner than average, actually. Again, it aims for safe and pleasant, and that’s where it lands.
A Strange Brand of Happy is sweet, but it also doesn’t make you sick with said sweetness. It is exactly balanced for the type of safe film it wants to be, and there’s nothing wrong with that; I think it is fine for what it is. Not entirely my cup of tea, but not a bad film either way.
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Posted on September 4, 2013 in Reviews by Mark Bell
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