Oh Hec . . . Well this is a mixed bag, isn’t it?
One thing that can be agreed is that Simon Pegg is brilliant and shows how much he has progressed from his Spaced days. Providing charisma and charm to an otherwise weak protagonist made all the difference.
The end result did leave me with a smile but the journey along the way seemed to stumble and stammer along, failing to decide on what tone to set. It teeters from feel good dramedy to hard hitting drama with the results mixed as none of them really gel or hit home as much as you’d expect or hope.
The slow burning opening does put you into a bit of a lull which is not a good start. Of course, the point is that we are supposed to see the source of Hector’s frustration as he plods on through his mundane life on auto pilot. But we get that connection in the first two minutes not twenty.
Pegg has great chemistry with the alluring Rosamund Pike but she is soon cast aside to Skype cameos as we follow Hector on his pursuit for happiness (No, different movie) after a mini-meltdown with one of his clients and Pegg’s many comedy counterparts Tracy Ann Oberman as the ill-titled Pathetic Jane.
The meltdown sequence allows Pegg to shine (with a catchphrase to remember). However, there only seems to be moments. A moment where Pegg can be funny. A moment where Pegg can act. It’s just not consistent enough.
A humourous incident in which Hector tests the versatility of the unbreakable cutlery on the first class flight was a good gag. A conversation with a cancer patient made for sobering viewing but was ignited by solid acting. We get to travel across the world(Well, China, Africa and America) to find the essence of happiness.
To be honest, the main message I got from the film was travel the world. Not just Africa. An elongated kidnapping sequence just didn’t seem to fit in the film at all and how Hector got out of it involving a pen from a drug kingpin was just stupid.
It helps that Pegg has a good supporting cast. It’s just a shame that anyone could have played their parts. Jean Reno played the arrogant and erratic drug king pin as well as you would expect but this didn’t seem like the sort of film to make satire. Satire that is not that subtle or clever.
Stellan Skarsgard was wasted as the affluent businessman who has it all. An encounter on the plane made for funny viewing as Hector irritates Skarsgard’s slumbering businessman. However, once they get into China, Skarsgard’s character is pushed aside.
At times, it was hard to feel sorry for Hector when he tends to act quite selfishly, especially when he has such a supporting and caring wife. I know, that’s life but as a film when you’re supposed to be rooting for the little guy, you end up wanting to slap him round the head and tell him to go home.
A lapse in judgement nearly leads to our “hero” sleeping with a hooker (played well by Ming Zhao). Why go out for burgers when you have steak at home? According to my brother who attended the screening with me.
Togo Igawa played the kind hearted monk well and to be honest, I wanted to see more of him. I know that this film was adapted from a book but this only spurred me to read the book to see if it is as bad as the film.
The weird cast asides and little convos with Hector’s inner child and childhood dog didn’t go anywhere and didn’t really fit. They felt forced into the film. Toni Collette played the old flame as well as she could bar one good scene in which they confront each other over their past.
Christopher Plummer makes a crazy cameo as the eccentric professor who can detect happiness in the brain. (Yeah, it really was as boring as you think). But Plummer manages to make any scientific mumbo jumbo sound believable with his dulcet tones.
It’s all hit and miss. Certainly watchable and Pegg has proven that he can act and act well. It will be great to see his next project with a better character, better story and a bit more room for him to apply his spiel.
The better moments seep through when Pegg is allowed to be . . . Pegg. It’s not bad but if you’re looking for a feel good travel movie then watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
It has good moments and an easy going message by the ending. That corny predictable ending.
2.5/5 for me.
Not bad not not great. Shame.