For a film about the meaning of happiness, it sure as hell leaves you feeling extremely unhappy upon its finish. Hector and the Search for Happiness, directed by Hannah Montana: The Movie’s (oh yes…) Peter Chelsom, stars Simon Pegg as Hector, the quirky psychiatrist who decides to embark on a journey of self-discovery.
Hector, the poor soul, is stuck in a bit of a rut. Frustrated with how organised and structured his life has become – and believing he can no longer help his patients with their own problems – he decides to up sticks and go on an adventure to rediscover what life is about and what makes people truly happy. So off he goes on his own, leaving his poor girlfriend Clara (Rosamund Pike) at home, as he gallivants around the world. Asia, Africa and America are his destinations, each one discovering a new way of life and interacting with a whole lot of different people along the way, including the multi-millionaire Edward (Stellan Skarsgård), Diego (Jean Reno) the drug dealer, and his former uni BBF’s Michael (Barry Atsma) and Agnes (Tony Collette).
It is a film that means well – as does Hector – but oh boy, it goes horribly wrong, and fast. This whole feel good, self-discovery sort of flick can work really well, but when the movie is so one-paced, your central character is so irritating, and the comedy factor is just not there, you are on the road to disaster.
Hector is not necessarily a bad guy, bar the fact he cheats on his girlfriend with a Chinese prostitute, shouts at his patients and just generally seems a little ungrateful about life, but, you know, he did not kill anyone. However, when you are meant to be on this journey with them as a character – and they are so off-putting – it is hard to pull for such a character, and therefore the film itself.
The film tries to be quirky with its use of animation and toy props, but it just feels out of place. It turns a simple idea – a nice idea – into a long, drawn out process that bores the living daylights out of you. Skimming the surface of everything it touches, it just feels extremely hollow. The emotion feels forced – particularly the cringeworthy ending that borders on painstaking – and the humour is non-existent. You could forgive its predictable and painfully obvious ending if it was not so darn right frustrating to watch.
Hector and the Search for Happiness leaves you searching, searching far and wide, as to what really was the point of it all. It is just a load of irritable waffle that no one, no one at all, cares about, with a central character you do not care about, with its only redeemable features being the briefest of moments – a touching plane scene and an underused Rosamund Pike – that give you a glimmer of hope, but they are few and far between.