Hector (Simon Pegg) is a quirky London psychiatrist who has become increasingly dissatisfied with the monotonous routine of his life. Realising his own frustration is stopping him from helping his patients, he decides to set off on a round-the-world trip to find out what makes people everywhere happy (and sad), and whether there is such a thing as the secret of true happiness.
As in the successful 2010 novel by Francois Lelord on which this film is based, Hector’s journey centers on the lessons he learns throughout his travels as recorded in his diary – for example, lesson number one: making comparisons can spoil your happiness. While in written form these lessons are earnest and thoughtful, their genuine nature fails to translate to the screen. As is the case with many book adaptations, the set-up required for an authentic narrative is completely rushed which, in this instance, makes Hector’s lessons feel forced and insincere.
What makes this film even more disappointing is the very capable cast. Rosamund Pike (Jack Reacher, The World’s End), Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine, Enough Said), Stellan Skarsgard (Nymphomaniac, The Railway Man), and Christopher Plummer (Beginners, The Insider) can do very little to bring their unsympathetic and unrealistic characters to life, resulting in over-the-top acting of this lacklustre screenplay.
But it’s Pegg who’s the main let-down. Once again he’s fallen into the ‘feel-good film’ trap (as with Run, Fatboy, Run and How To Lose Friends & Alienate People) and chosen a screenplay that fails to highlight the wit and subtly of which he’s capable.
With its exotic locations and journeyman narrative, it’s clear to see what co-writer/director Peter Chelsom (whose credits include Hannah Montana: The Movie – yikes!) was trying to achieve with this film. However, the end result is nothing more than a poor man’s version of The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty – which, let’s face it, was the poor man’s version of Forrest Gump.
Hector And The Search For Happiness is in cinemas from Thursday October 23.