By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — We’re back in Eat Pray Love territory. Call it “Leave Travel Feel.” Come to think of it, make that “Leave Travel Feel Grateful.”
It’s Hector and the Search for Happiness, a British comedy-drama starring Simon Pegg as the title character, a disenchanted London psychiatrist who tires of his lot in life: his lifestyle may be comfy, but it no longer stimulates or satisfies him. Inner joy and fulfillment continue to elude him.
He finds himself doodling while his troubled patients talk to him and thinking of things he’d rather be doing and places he’d rather be.
So he announces to his patient, adoring girlfriend, Clara (played by Rosamund Pike), that he intends to exit his comfort zone and leave this humdrum existence behind for a stretch.
Instead of continuing to drift this way, he will travel the world.
His global quest will be for the purpose of researching what makes other people happy, in the hope that the answers he gets -– which he will put together in a book that he will write — will help him to achieve the same elusive goal.
He goes first to China, then to the Himalayas, later to an unspecified nation in Africa, eventually to Los Angeles, along the way encountering supporting players Stellan Skarsgard, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, and Jean Reno.
Director Peter Chesholm (Hear My Song, Funny Bones, Serendipity, Shall We Dance) based the screenplay that he co-wrote with Tinker Lindsay and Maria von Heland on psychiatrist Francois Lelord’s 2002 novel of the same name.
But in watching this self-help-style instructional travelogue, it proves difficult to stop viewing the protagonist as emotionally stunted, as a spoiled, privileged, insensitive navel-gazer.
It’s exceedingly obvious that this guy has not only too much time on his hands but the unusual and desirable luxury of being able to undertake such an adventure — to say nothing of the abundant funding necessary, which is far beyond the means of the vast majority of viewers, most of whom will find themselves counting their blessings even if Hector won’t.
Of course, none of these realizations exactly help the premise to register or our rooting interest to kick in.
Rooting interest? How about interest, period? The feel-good status the film seems intent on achieving remains well out of reach.
Pegg, always an agreeable presence, is this time overly restrained, his usual comic edge softened by the dictates of the earnest premise, which calls for lots and lots of fortune-cookie wisdom and not nearly enough hectoring of its own blinders. We find ourselves longing for the comedic stylings of the Simon Pegg of Shaun of the Dead or Paul or The World’s End.
Now that would make us happy. Alas.
So we’ll psychoanalyze 2 stars out of 4. Hector and the Search for Happiness is a globetrotting dramedy that hopes to make viewers happy. The search goes on.