Adventure/Comedy/Drama, 114 Minutes, 2015
Peggapalooza! continues with a question that everybody has asked at one time or another: what is happiness? Hector (Simon Pegg [IMDB]) is a stable, dependable psychiatrist. He’s in a stable, dependable relationship with Clara (Rosamund Pike [IMDB]), a stable, dependable marketing consultant. His life is stable and dependable. Warm. Comfortable. Pleasant.
Feeling like a fraud for counseling others about their happiness when he’s unable to commit to his own, he undertakes a journey to discover the meaning of happiness. He travels to China (for… no discernible reason), Africa (to work with an old friend at a free clinic) and the United States (to get closure with an old flame). As expected, he encounters quirky fellow travelers and has amazing adventures, each with something to offer on the topic of happiness.
The movie has a problem with balance and flow. Unlike, say, 2013’s similarly structured The Secret Life of Walter Mitty [My Review], there isn’t a solid thread to drive the story forward. Walter found himself in strange situations and meeting unusual people because he was following somebody that did that all the time. He was also under a time restraint which forced him far outside of his comfort zone.
Hector simply decides that he’s going. He doesn’t know when, or if, he’ll come back. The adventures he has are a result of circumstance and coincidence rather than design. It can’t decide if it wants to be whimsical or serious, so it attempts both. Brief animated sequences and hand-written subtitles pepper the first half; they all but disappear by the end. Important emotional interactions are sometimes delivered in light, impish dialogue and at other times in tearful, dramatic exchanges.
Positively, Pegg gives an absolutely charming, sincere performance. He continues to demonstrate his expanding range with each new challenge. For her part, Pike, is excellent, but unfortunately sabotaged by a script that can’t decide how to work with her character. The character wavers between emotionally dependent and emotionally distant. She does very well with both, but it can only be described as a dual performance.
The final scenes are emotional and, thankfully, without ridiculous twists. They also feature one of the hands-down silliest presentations of computers in recent memory. It’s so terribly hamfisted and patronizing that it’s difficult, but not impossible, to take the entire climax seriously.
It’s to the credit of the actors involved that the film works as well as it does. The emotional delivery of each scene is powerful and you will smile, cringe and cry as appropriate. As a complete narrative, it begins to fall apart. Events are too convenient and characters too malleable. Like so many others, this is a good movie that could have been a great movie.