With an approach so saccharine that it makes Eat Pray Love look like an edgy thriller, this heartwarming meaning-of-life odyssey is so relentlessly schmalzy that it quickly annoys anyone with even a tiny spark of cynicism inside them. And the annoying thing is that the filmmakers might have got away with it if there was any depth to the constant flow of uplifting sloganeering.
It starts in London, where the psychiatrist Hector (Simon Pegg) has a perfect life with his cheeky girlfriend Clara (Rosamund Pike). But the misery of his patients is rubbing off on him, so he decides to go in search of the true meaning of happiness. He starts by heading to Shanghai, where he meets a stinking-rich businessman (Stellan Skarsgard) and a sexy young woman (Zhao Ming). But is happiness found in money or sex? Silly question. Moving on, he checks out knowledge and wisdom in Tibet with a monk (Togo Igawa), then charity and power in Africa with an old pal (Barry Atsma), a drug kingpin (Jean Reno) and a gang of heavily armed rebels. Finally, he heads to Los Angeles to explore nostalgia with his old flame Agnes (Toni Collette), who helps him track down an award-winning self-help author (Christopher Plummer) who's known as "the Einstein of happiness".
Based on the book by Francois Lelord, the film is assembled along an outline of Hector's discoveries along the road, so what he discovers is actually written across the screen. But none of it is remotely enlightening, so why is he travelling to China, Tibet and Africa to discover these cheesy aphorisms, which appear on trite motivational posters in every office in the Western world? In addition to the on-screen captions, there are animated segments from Hector's travel diary, which are clearly drawn by a professional artist, not this hapless goofball who can't even remember where his pen is.
Continue reading: Hector and the Search for Happiness Review
Hector (Simon Pegg) is a top psychiatrist who may appear to have everything one needs in life; a comfortable salary, his beautiful girlfriend Clara (Rosamund Pike) and plenty of friends; but after spending day after day listening to people complain about being so unhappy, he's starting to lose faith in his own advice. Bored of his own routine life, he takes a break from counselling and decides to embark on a round the world trip to uncover the true meaning of happiness. Visiting foreign lands far and wide shows him just how different people's lives really are and far from learning whether or not happiness exists, he begins to discover a new way of thinking. His desperate partner is feeling less than joyful about his long absence, but will his return bring them a fresh dose of contentment? Or will he decide that happiness can't be found within his London home?