• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

A Strange Brand of Happy: Film Review

A Strange Brand of Happy Poster - P 2013

The Bottom Line

This blandly formulaic romantic comedy doesn't deliver on its titular promise.

Director-Screenwriter

Brad Wise

Cast

Rebecca St. James, Joe Boyd, Shirley Jones, Marty Ingels, Joe Stevens, Venida Evans

An unemployed sad sack finds love and spiritual renewal in this "faith-friendly romantic comedy."

A Strange Brand of Happy is being billed as a “faith-friendly romantic comedy,” but its overall ineptness has the inadvertent impact of making you lose faith in romantic comedies altogether. This tale of an unemployed sad sack finding love with his beautiful Christian life coach fails to entertain or enlighten.

The central character is David (Joe Boyd, described in the press notes as a “pastor turned actor”), who has recently lost his job and sunk into a depression. His goofy roommate, Ben (Benjamin Keller), connives to have him meet life coach Joyce (Grammy Award-winning Christian pop singer Rebecca St. James), whose brand of counseling includes having him participate in an inspirational poetry reading and volunteering at an old-age home filled with cutesy seniors. She also encourages him to develop his artistic talents, which he mainly expresses through cartoon doodles.

David soon finds himself competing for Joyce’s affections with his venal ex-boss (Hunter Shepard), as well as dodging the none-too-subtle advances of his sexy landlord (Bekka Prewitt).

Straining for wacky comedy via such plot elements as David toting around a suit of armor and having the oldsters compete in, yes, a scooter race, the film written and directed by Brad Wise strikes nary a believable note, although some of the dialogue is moderately amusing, such as when David is accurately described as looking like “a sickly Ray Romano.”

But the awkward attempts at injecting deeper themes into the mix, including David’s epiphany about embracing God demonstrated through an overhead projector presentation of his heartfelt drawings, fall utterly flat.

Although Boyd displays a certain deadpan comic charm, the overall blandness of his performance demonstrates that he shouldn’t give up his day job. The supporting players, including Marty Ingels and Oscar-winner Shirley Jones as two of the seniors who rally to David’s cause, are equally uninspired.

Opens Sept. 13 (Integrated Media Associates)

Production: Rebel Pilgrim Productions

Cast: Rebecca St. James, Joe Boyd, Shirley Jones, Marty Ingels, Joe Stevens, Venida Evans, Hunter Shepard, Benjamin Keller, Bekka Prewitt

Director-screenwriter: Brad Wise

Producers: Jim Boyd, Jim Nyberg, Isaac Stambaugh

Executive producer: Philip Sarnecki  

Director of photography: Mark Denney

Editor: Isaac Stambaugh

Production designer: Corie Savary

Costume designer: Carla Shivener

Composer: Jim Zartman

Rated PG-13, 96 min.