Perhaps the worst sort of film to gain popularity in recent years is ‘the plucky underdog goes travelling to fulfil his life’ movie. We’ve seen it in the excruciatingly mediocre The Secret Life of Walter Mitty several months ago – and before there is even time to get our breath back comes Hector and the Search For Happiness.
Simon Pegg stars as Hector a psychiatrist from London who finds himself in a rut. Not convinced with the advice he sycophantically dishes out to patients and not entirely sure that his wife (Rosamund Pike) is the ‘one’, Hector decides to go travelling to find out the meaning of happiness.
The issue with films like Hector and Walter Mitty is that the sentiment feels hugely false and insincere. Implying that no one can be content without travelling or going on a personal journey, Hector is like the stereotypical privileged twenty-something who continually refers to their gap year in Africa or Asia. Like the gap year student, Pegg’s Hector is so self-indulgent and unpleasant that it is a struggle to get swept away in the attempted uplifting whimsy of Peter Chelsom’s film.
Maria von Heland and Chelsom’s screenplay sees its supporting players charmed and drawn to the strangely unappealing Hector. African families, Asian monks and Chinese call-girls flock to the protagonist, despite his lack of charisma and unaware sense of self-righteousness. Perhaps more embarrassing than this are the ill-fated attempts at comedy. Hector is supposed to be a quirky, fun protagonist – he even has velcro pockets, a pork pie hat and tropical shirts – isn’t that funny? Like his get-up, Hector’s clumsy demeanour is equally cringe-inducing – as seen in the film’s key ‘comic set-piece’ where the scatter-brained Hector ends up in first class on a plane, much to the annoyance of Stellan Skarsgard’s cranky businessman.
Sadly there are no laughs to be found and the closest we do get towards finding happiness is when we see the infuriating Hector locked in a squalid jail-cell at the mercy of a ruthless African crime-lord.
Fortunately a supporting cast does add some likeability to the proceedings. Rosamund Pike is relatively charming as Hector’s inexplicably adoring girlfriend and Christopher Plummer mere screen-presence alone keeps the last act watchable. Jean Reno, Stellan Skarsgard and Toni Collette are generally squandered in unappealing supporting roles as they fall prey to Hector’s apparent ‘charm.’
The unconvincing Hector and the Search for Happiness is a tough slog with a two hour run-time. Its condescending themes and unpleasant little protagonist are not likely to help you get any closer to personal fulfilment.
Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Indie
15th August 2014 (UK)
Running Time: 114 Minutes
Rosamund Pike, Simon Pegg, Toni Collette , Jean Reno, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard