So in 2013, we the audiences were treated to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which saw Ben Stiller undertake a world-traversing voyage to understand the meaning of life…which is apparently a big deal. This time around sees Simon Pegg trying to get in touch with his happy-self, as weird as that sounds… in Hector and the Search for Happiness.
Based on French psychiatrist François Lelord’s best-selling novel of the same name, and directed by Peter Chelsom, Simon Pegg plays our dissatisfied protagonist Hector; a quirky psychiatrist who realises his methods aren’t really helping his patients, and so embarks on a trip around the world, reaching destinations such as Shanghai and The Himalayas, in a bid to discover the secret of happiness….ps. its cake, lots and lots of cake…
Chelsom does well to capture the energy of the various locales, and if nothing else the aesthetics within the film are mostly impressive, all the more so when you consider the tight budget…especially in comparison to Walter Mitty. As for the film’s relatable messages, the bulk of them hit home, though the heavy-handed manner in which their executed can leave much to be desired. Sadly, it’s not the only problem, with an unfocused screenplay. This is exemplified in the final act; Hector’s ultimate realization is extremely sudden to say the least and feels like it comes completely out of nowhere.
Pegg is known more for his comedy chops than his dramatic acting, but here the focus is on the latter. Of course, as an actor Pegg proves up to the task in the emotional moments, but even for an actor as good as Pegg he cannot always imbue Hector with likability, as written our protagonist is too immature and self-indulgent to inspire much empathy. A prime example of Hector’s less than endearing decision-making comes when he cheats on his girlfriend days after departing for his voyage….cue every Beyonce song!
A supporting cast that includes Stellan Skarsgård, Christopher Plummer and Toni Collette is always going to class up proceedings, and they are all enjoyable enough in their roles, but there is little cohesive power between their characters’ musings on happiness. Again, like in the instances with Pegg, it isn’t down to the actors faults more so that of the screenplay.
So just like your older sibling…It’s not as profound as it thinks it is, and the screenplay disappoints more than it impresses, but Hector and the Search for Happiness is a harmless, solidly performed romp. Those pursuing true happiness need not apply, but those content with mild entertainment should be satisfied.