Universal // 2009 // 109 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Kelly (Retired) // February 8th, 2010
Love Happens is something to be truly excited about; another faceless romance with Jennifer Aniston. Yay!!!
As an actress, it is possible for me to abide Jennifer Aniston, but not when she makes uninspired films like Love Happens. A turgid and schmaltz-filled movie from the start, Love Happens is a misstep for all involved, including the audiences who use their precious time to watch it. The production had a rather subdued theatrical run last September ($32 million worldwide is more a cause for concern than celebration), but now it's available in a sparkly Blu-Ray package for those fortunate enough to have skipped it the first time around.
Burke Ryan (Aaron Eckhart, The Dark Knight) is an immensely successful self-help guru who, after the death of his wife, penned the novel "A-Okay" to help himself cope with the grief. The book is now a published triumph and has transformed Burke into a celebrity, a beacon of hope to many dealing with the same grievances. However, Burke himself is living a lie. Despite his success at healing others he remains distraught and uncured of the depression left by his spouse's passing, a problem inflamed by the bitterness exhibited by his father-in-law (Martin Sheen, The Departed). However, upon meeting Eloise (Jennifer Aniston, Marley and Me), a quirky flower shop owner, he begins to get a different perspective on life, as she provides the emotional relief for him that he offers to so many others.
Love Happens has one or two interesting ideas simmering below the surface but ultimately squanders them in search of something more tacky and trivial. For a while it looks like Burke Ryan will become a full blown anti-hero, but by the 30 minute mark, those hopes are dashed, and whilst director Brandon Camp appears occasionally attentive to characterization, he ultimately fashions some very familiar and dull screen entities. Due to these rare moments of filmmaking promise, Love Happens avoids being classed as a truly heinous cinematic experience, but it is a dreary and utterly forgettable picture. I watched the movie only a few hours prior to writing this review, and I literally remember only small snippets of the production. Not that I'm complaining about that; this is the sort of film you want expunged from your memory ASAP.
The narrative is hardly a stretch for the genre. It pretty much boils down to a disenchanted man being shown that life is worth living by an odd yet beautiful women. The fact the film looks initially to be taking the central characterization in a fresh direction is a nice touch, but eventually that hope dissipates as things come to a very generic close. Aaron Eckhart is a mighty fine actor and one I could see being quite successful in the rom-com game, but here he's disappointing and mostly one note. Burke never feels like a unique or engaging individual, he's an obvious creation with a clear character resolution laid before him from the beginning. If an audience member can't see where Love Happens is headed, I'd be surprised, unless said person was an infant from a country where movies as a whole are banned. That might be understandable, but when viewed by any other demographic, the production is a frightfully predictable one. Aniston underperforms too. She may not be a thespian of the same depth as Eckhart, but over the years she has shown enough charm and comedic ability to confirm her suitability for films like Love Happens. However the writing deflates the chances of letting her comedienne instincts take hold, and thus she ends up playing the same quirky romantic stereotype we've seen dozens of times before. Together the pair has a very tame chemistry that further adds to the boring nature of the product. Martin Sheen slums it for a paycheque as Eckhart's mourning father-in-law, whilst Judy Greer (27 Dresses) and Dan Fogler (Good Luck Chuck) play the same best friend type roles they always do. If that isn't a warning sign, I don't know what is.
Brandon Camp shows some ambition and talent in the area of shot construction, but he appears incompetent at most other things. The screenplay by him and Mike Thompson is an unappealing work that has been transformed into a bland film. The romance is foreseeable and staggeringly mirthless whilst the rare touches of comedy never ignite or find favor. The film definitely wants to be seen as more of a romantic drama than anything else, but the swings at comic material are hopeless. I didn't laugh once during the picture, which says something of the quality found within. The themes of celebrity discontent and inescapable grief are touched upon but treated more like plot devices than ideas worth exploring, albeit a powerful performance from John Carroll Lynch (Zodiac) as a distraught father does lend much needed gravitas to the latter. There are at least a dozen genre staples in Love Happens, including a goofy animal (in this case a parrot called Rocky), silly best buddies (Greer and Fogler in their element), and an utterly dopey and saccharine finale. Love Happens is an irksome movie that is best avoided and even if you do happen to see it, you won't remember it for long.
Love Happens looks beautiful on Blu-Ray. The picture is strong and well-defined, all the while filled by vibrant colours (often courtesy of flowers) and gentle visual warmth. On Hi-Def this is a good looking movie and one that video aficionados would probably do well to check out, I can't remember any non-event film looking quite this sharp on Blu-Ray before. The audio is less remarkable but still solid. I doubt many would be picking up this disc to give their sound system a workout anyway, but even so the dialogue is clear and the audio track handles the plodding soundtrack comfortably. In terms of bonus content the Blu-Ray offers a dry commentary from Camp, Thompson, and one of the movie's producers. It's a stale listen filled with backslapping but little substantive filmmaking insight or nuggets of information. A pointless three-minute featurette shows how several locations and shots used CGI enhancements to achieve a desirable look, and 14 minutes of deleted material is also onboard. The cut scenes are repetitive and deserve to be on the editor's floor, they add nothing to the production's already bloated 109 minute running time. The release also comes with BD-Live connectivity. It's a roster of added material that is modest at best.
Love Happens is a creaky and drab film that occasionally shows decent intentions, but never executes them to adequate effect. The Blu-Ray release is robust enough; only a lack of enjoyable extra content lets it down.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (French)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* Box Office Mojo: Love Happens