'A Happening of Monumental Proportions': Film Review

A lot of wasted talent.
9/21/2018

Judy Greer makes her directorial debut with this dramedy featuring a gallery of well-known actors.

Everybody loves Judy Greer. The charming actress has consistently delivered terrific performances, both comedic and dramatic, in scores of television shows and films over the years. She also seems to have made many acting friends, as evidenced by her feature directorial debut that unfortunately does them no favors. Featuring appearances by a dizzying assemblage of well-known and estimable performers, A Happening of Monumental Proportions is a perfect example of a bad movie happening to good actors.

The problem doesn't stem so much from Greer's helming but rather the painfully unfunny script by Gary Lundy. The episodic storyline, taking place over a single day, is composed of a series of vignettes involving characters whose lives intertwine in ways both obvious and oblique. Attempting to blend raucous, sitcom-style humor with warm emotionalism, the script fails on both levels.

If there's a central character, it's probably Daniel (Common, in uncommonly comedic mode), a widowed dad stressed out over his upcoming appearance at the Career Day held at the elementary school that his young daughter Patricia (Storm Reid) attends. But that's just one of his problems. On his way to work, he receives a series of threatening phone calls from the husband of his assistant (Jennifer Garner), with whom he's been having an affair. When he gets to the office, Daniel finds himself accused of vandalizing the office coffee machine and is promptly fired by his officious new boss, Mr. Schneedy (Bradley Whitford).

Meanwhile, the school which his daughter attends is having a chaotic day itself. The principal (Allison Janney) and her deputy (Rob Riggle) desperately try to hide the corpse of the school gardener, who apparently dropped dead near a large pile of manure. They stash his body in the teachers' lounge, resulting in a series of Weekend at Bernie's-style shenanigans. The music teacher (Anders Holm) is nearly suicidal after his girlfriend breaks up with him. And a new student (Marcus Eckert) develops a serious crush on Patricia and asks the shop teacher (John Cho) for romantic advice.

When Daniel finally shows up for Career Day and informs the stupefied young students that he's newly unemployed, he discovers that Mr. Schneedy is also one of the fathers, with the two men getting into a shouting match that devolves into a fistfight. Hilarity does not ensue.

But then again, none of the intended jokes land, including running gags about the Mexican gardener being named "Kevin" and the sarcastic responses by a pair of EMTs (Katie Holmes, Nat Faxon) when they show up at the school to deal with the various crises. There's one mildly amusing scene involving Daniel's interview with a not so helpful HR person (Kumail Nanjiani). And there's a final cameo appearance toward the conclusion that is both very surprising and provides the film's only genuine laughs.

Feeling much longer that its brief running time, A Happening of Monumental Proportions seems like it was a lot more fun to make than to watch. To Greer's credit, the large ensemble of well-known performers seem to be having a good time onscreen. Unfortunately, their pleasure is not likely to be shared by moviegoers seduced by the marquee names on display.

Production companies: Albyn Media, Depth of Field
Distributor: Great Point Media
Cast: Common, Bradley Whitford, Allison Janney, Anders Holm, Rob Riggle, Katie Holmes, Nat Faxon, Jennifer Garner, Marcus Eckert, Storm Reid, John Cho, Kumail Nanjiani
Director: Judy Greer
Screenwriter: Gary Lundy
Producers: Andrew Miano, David Gardner, Paul Weitz, Stephanie Meurer
Executive producers: Chris Weitz, Dan Balgoyen, Robert Halmi Jr., Jim Reeve
Director of photography: Alison Kelly
Production designer: Michael Fitzgerald
Editor: Suzanne Spangler
Composer: Alec Puro
Costume designer: Molly Grudman-Gerbosi
Casting: Kim Coleman

Rated R, 82 minutes