Jeff Daniels & Lauren Graham in The Answer Man
Lauren Graham & Jeff Daniels in 'The Answer Man'
James L. Brooks' movies have always been touchstones for filmmakers looking to give their comedies a little dramatic heft and that elusive quality known as "heart," but John Hindman's "The Answer Man" takes the cribbing one step too far.
For all intents and purposes, Hindman has remade "As Good As It Gets," subbing sentiment for sharpness and displaying an alarming aversion to anything approaching reality.
Leads Jeff Daniels and Lauren Graham swim mightily against sitcom tidiness, but in the end the tide carries them far out to sea.
Daniels plays misanthropic writer Arlen Faber, who has shut himself off from the world for 20 years since his self-help book, "Me and God," spawned a cottage industry and "redefined spirituality for an entire generation."
That Daniels' answer man possesses few, if any, is made immediately apparent.
"Maybe he wrote 'Me and God,'" one acquaintance complains of Faber, "but he did not read it."
Faber clearly needs emotional healing, not to mention the kind of healing Marvin Gaye sang about. His road to recovery begins when he meets an anxiety-ridden single mom (Graham) and an emotionally damaged, alcoholic bookstore owner (Lou Taylor Pucci). Conveniently, everyone wears their symptoms on their sleeves, but because the characters are so haphazardly drawn, their pain remains elusive to the end.
Most of the hurt derives from father-abandonment issues, extending all the way upstairs to the Heavenly Father himself.
The Alzheimer's and alcoholism, death and deadbeat dads are a little much for a movie unwilling to avoid the sort of pat answers doled out in the self-help books that it gently satirizes.
Daniels' Faber can be a curmudgeon one moment and a charmer the next, and it's hard to accept the notion that Graham's levelheaded gal wouldn't instantly see through his act and show him the door.
But then, delusion is the order of the day here. You can be excused for not buying into it.
"The Answer Man" Movie Trailer
The Answer Man MPAA rating: R (for language).
Running time: 1:35
Starring: Jeff Daniels (Arlen); Lauren Graham (Elizabeth); Kat Dennings (Dahlia); Lou Taylor Pucci (Kris).
Written and directed by John Hindman.
Produced by Kevin Messick.
A Magnolia Pictures release.
Recent Movie Reviews - Films in Theaters
Julie & Julia
Meryl Streep & Amy Adams in Julie & Julia
Writer-director Nora Ephron adapts and intertwines two books: Julia Child's "My Life in France" and Julie Powell's "Julie & Julia." The latter grew out of Powell's online experiment, a year spent cooking and blogging her way through the seminal Child volume "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." It may not make for great cinema, but you go to a movie like this for the sauces and stews, and for the considerable pleasure of seeing (and listening to) Meryl Streep's drolly exuberant performance as Child. Amy Adams is also very good as Powell
A Perfect Getaway
Steve Zahn, Timothy Olyphant, Milla Jovovich, Kiele Sanchez in A Perfect Getaway
Nothing is what it seems in this cockamamie but enjoyable honeymoon-fiasco picture. A newly married screenwriter (Steve Zahn) and his bride (Milla Jovovich) travel to Kauai, where they encounter a good-looking pair of secretive, possibly psychopathic hitchhikers (Marley Shelton and Chris Hemsworth) and, later, a good-looking pair of secretive, possibly psychopathic travelers (Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez).
Charlyne Yi & Michael Cera in Paper Heart
A clever hybrid of a film that swings between comedy, documentary and puppet re-enactments with the slightest push from its stars -- Charlyne Yi and Michael Cera -- as variations on themselves. This romantic fable begins with the notion that Yi doesn't believe in fairy tales when it comes to love. She confronts her state of disillusionment with a search for what love means to all types of people. But "real" life, in the form of Cera, who suddenly emerges as possible boyfriend material, complicates everything.
Hugh Dancy & Rose Byrne in Adam
A toy engineer (Hugh Dancy) with the high-functioning autism classified as Asperger's syndrome becomes romantically involved with a neighbor in his Manhattan apartment building (Rose Byrne). Sweet, simple and more than a little dodgy, writer-director Max Mayer's film gets a lift from its ensemble cast, thereby proving that a film's acting typically is the least of its problems.
Adam Sandler & Seth Rogen in Funny People
Director Judd Apatow digs into the question of what makes charismatically desperate comedians do what they do, and this film is also Apatow's attempt to reconcile the huge success he has become with the up-and-comer he once was. When a comic turned movie star (Adam Sandler) is diagnosed with leukemia, he must change his ways and reconnect with those he's sealed off from his life. His new assistant (Seth Rogen) acts as his apprentice, sounding board and punching bag
Mark Duplass & Joshua Leonard in Humpday
Ben (Mark Duplass) has settled down and plans to start a family when old friend Andrew (Joshua Leonard) shows up in the middle of the night and is plainly still living a free life full of artistic (and sexual) possibilities, causing Ben to question his own path. On a dare, Ben lets Andrew talk him into embarking on an art project
Vera Farmiga & Peter Sarsgaard in Orphan
In "Orphan," Vera Farmiga plays Kate, the unraveling mother of a malevolent 9-year-old adoptee hellbent on familial destruction. A year after a stillbirth, fragile Kate and architect husband John (Peter Sarsgaard) visit the local orphanage, and are drawn to a raven-haired loner named Esther, played by Isabelle Fuhrman with the sort of unearthly composure that screams, "You should've picked the other one!"
G-Force (2 Stars)
Nicolas Cage & Sam Rockwell in G-Force
The new Disney macho rodent action picture, "G-Force," has the vibe of a typical R-rated Jerry Bruckheimer headbanger. Its sensibility isn't so much childish as smarmily adolescent. Luckily, Nicolas Cage is amusing voicing the commando mole, Speckles, single-handedly giving this energetically soulless enterprise some personality.
The Ugly Truth
Katherine Heigl & Gerard Butler in The Ugly Truth
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Emma, Watson, Daniel Radcliffe & Rupert Grint
This meticulously atmospheric, wonderfully acted Potter adventure lands happily -- broodingly, but happily -- near the top of the series heap. As the concerns of novelist J.K. Rowling's characters gravitate toward matters of the heart and the hormones, the Potter films are leaving childhood behind.
The Hurt Locker
Jeremy Renner & Anthony Mackie in The Hurt Locker
Vivid, assured and extremely suspenseful, director Kathryn Bigelow's latest (and strongest) film takes moviegoers by the collar and throws them headlong into one horrifying life-and-death situation after another. Jeremy Renner plays a soldier in Iraq running toward the explosives while everyone else is ducking and covering.
- 9 Animated Feature Movie Review
- The September Issue
- Taking Woodstock
- All About Steve
- World's Greatest Dad
- My One and Only
- Inglourious Basterds
- Post Grad
- Fifty Dead Men Walking
- X Games 3D: The Movie
- District 9
- The Time Traveler's Wife
- The Goods: Live-Hard. Sell Hard
- Julie & Julia
- A Perfect Getaway
- I Love You Beth Cooper
- Blood: The Last Vampire
- Public Enemies
- Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
- My Sister's Keeper
- Whatever Works
- Year One
- Food Inc. (3 Stars)
- The Proposal (2 Stars)
- Moon (2 Stars)
- The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
- Away We Go
- Land of the Lost
- The Hangover
- My Life in Ruins
- Easy Virtue
- Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian
- Terminator Salvation
- The Brothers Bloom
- Angels & Demons
- Star Trek
- Next Day Air
- X-Men Origins: Wolverine
- Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
- Is Anybody There?