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Hector and the Search for Happiness


Stars: Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, Jean Reno, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard

Director: Peter Chelsom

Based on a whimsical French novel, this is a rambling and sometimes quite dark odyssey tailored to Pegg's own blend of angst and panic. The film's problem, almost inevitably, is that it doesn't quite know what it wants to be.

It begins as comedy, with lots of flashy editing and small cartoon interpolations which persist throughout the film, together with on-screen scribbles that add little to anything. Hector (Pegg) is a psychiatrist with a high-profile partner (Pike), but he feels his patients aren't getting any happier and that his own life is slowly unravelling.

He resolves to set out on a round-the-world trip to find out what makes people happy, which would seem to be a contradiction in terms. However, a seemingly stuffed-shirt businessman (Skarsgard) shows him the hotspots of Shanghai, including a very hot girl who proves the first of Hector's many disillusionments.

From here, the film gets quite serious, contemplative and even maudlin. Hector meets a Tibetan monk, advises a drugs baron (Reno) on the treatment his wife should be getting, then moves on to South Africa, where he is beaten and jailed for helping an old friend at a medical centre for the poor.

Eventually landing in LA to meet an old flame (Collette) and an eccentric scientist (Plummer), who specialises in pinpointing human emotions from the brain, Hector finally discovers, like Dorothy Gale before him, that happiness is just in your own backyard.

The result is a train-wreck of a movie that never settles on a tone, even by its own divisive standards. Pegg enthusiasts will be disappointed, others restless or baffled. Of the cast, only Reno makes a lasting impression. Happiness, I fear, is not to be found here.

David Quinlan

USA 2014. UK Distributor: Koch Media. Colour by Kodak/Fujicolor.
120 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 12 Aug 2014