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Case Number 18305

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Love Happens

Universal // 2009 // 109 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // February 11th, 2010

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All Rise...

Judge Brett Cullum can't abide blonde and bland when nothing happens.

Editor's Note

Our review of Love Happens (Blu-Ray), published February 8th, 2010, is also available.

The Charge

"Can I say something? And, and this comes from a place of total humility. With the acknowledgment that my life is a day-by-day experiment in really bad decisions. But, er…you're really messed up."—Eloise

Opening Statement

Love Happens is a romantic comedy that is neither romantic nor funny, and also a chick flick that revolves around a guy who can't relate to women. Basically, the film is screwed up from the get go. It's actually a drama about a self help guru (Aaron Eckhart, The Dark Knight) who can't get past his wife's death. Can a cute florist (Jennifer Aniston, Friends) help him get over her?

Facts of the Case

Dr. Burke Ryan (Eckhart) teaches people how to deal with the grief of losing a loved one. He tells them things like "make lemonade" and "celebrate their memories." He's cheesy, and he's poised to be on the verge of being the next Dr. Phil with his "You're A-Okay!" mantra. The only trouble is he can't shake the veil of sadness over his own heart which has been there since his wife died and was buried in Seattle. He's a phony, and secretly an alcoholic. Along comes a perky cute hotel florist (Aniston) who challenges him to get over his sadness once and for all. The only trouble is his father-in-law (Martin Sheen, Apocalypse Now) just won't let him forget he's a hypocrite.

The Evidence

The film doesn't work on many levels, and you have to blame director and writer Brandon Camp (Dragonfly) who had his usual writing partner in Mike Thompson (John Doe). They take a hackneyed story about a phony motivational speaker falling for a flower girl in rainy Seattle, and forget anything interesting along the way. The first ten minutes of the film sets up Burke as a functioning alcoholic chugging straight vodka upon waking up, but no more is ever said of his addiction. They set up the fact that the florist likes to scribble power vocabulary words on walls behind paintings, but we are never given an explanation that makes much sense why she does this. We see Burke about to commercialize his grief even putting his sad mug on protein powder, but the story soon forgets this element too. All it seems concerned with is allowing Aaron Eckhart to steel his square jaw in the direction of Jennifer Aniston as she does her best impersonation of a golden retriever. Strangely, things feel truly dated as well. Seattle is never invoked much other than gratuitous use of the Pike Place Market and the Space Needle. The truth is that the majority of this was filmed in Vancouver, and that is what it looks like much more than the birthplace of grunge. Even worse, we get tepid old soundtrack offerings from the Eels, Badly Drawn Boy, and Postal Service. Our two leads think the ultimate date is using a cherry picker to eavesdrop on a Rogue Wave concert. As if I buy that the dream of a pair of forty-somethings is to crash a concert by a band that hasn't had a CD in a couple of years.

The key to any romantic comedy lies in the chemistry of your leads, and unfortunately this pair doesn't have it together or individually. It seems like Aaron Eckhart would make for a great romantic leading man given that he looks like a '50s matinee idol. The trouble is that he just can't do much unless he is given a dark edge to work with, and this film is not going to allow him to flash cynical like he did to great effect in Thank You for Smoking and In the Company of Men. The film neuters what makes him great by forcing him to be bland and attempt light comedy. Meanwhile Jennifer Aniston reveals that she has no clue how to carry a big movie. I am all for Aniston when she is shockingly good, like in Friends with Money or The Good Girl, but here she simply tries to look cute. She even cocks her head when she looks at a dictionary to make sure we get that she's painfully adorable. Together they are just bland and blonde, and that doesn't sell romance very well.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

I have to give the DVD props for looking good and having some solid extras. If you decide you actually like this film, the DVD package is not bad at all. The transfer is truly gorgeous with vibrant colors and true to life flesh tones. They use so much CGI that seeing it in normal resolution instead of high definition may help things look more authentic. Extras are exactly the same as the Bluray. Dialogue and music sound fine. We get some deleted scenes that don't add anything. There is also a rather strange look at the CGI process which reveals how they got away with shooting almost none of it in Seattle. A commentary with director Camp, his writing partner, and a producer proves dry and self-congratulatory.

Closing Statement

Love Happens is a mangled mess of a movie that makes me dislike two of my favorite actors, because they are so misused. Aaron Eckhart needs to find more edgy material, while Jennifer Aniston needs to concentrate on small films that allow her to grow out of her television shell. Neither of them is served by this plodding drama that moves predictably with no charm or grace. You are nowhere when there is nothing that makes you crack a smile during a romantic comedy. Another shame is the DVD looks good and has some solid extras, so we can't see it getting the short shrift it deserves.

The Verdict

Guilty of making me wanting to say "shit happens," because it is a crappy movie that wastes a great cast.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 94
Audio: 94
Extras: 94
Acting: 70
Story: 50
Judgment: 67

Perp Profile

Studio: Universal
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
Genres:
• Comedy
• Drama
• Romance
• Romantic Comedies

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary
• Deleted Scenes
• Featurette

Accomplices

• IMDb








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