HECTOR AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
⋆⋆ out of four stars Rating: R for language and some brief nudity. • Theater: Edina.
This is a glib and overlong tale of a frustrated London psychiatrist who sets out to do “research” to ostensibly help his patients, who are getting no happier under his care. Nor is he.
Hector (Simon Pegg) has taken to snapping at the rich housewife who whines about having to cut her nanny’s hours. And he wonders why he’s unable to commit to his marketing guru girlfriend (Rosamund Pike). So he takes off.
He flies to China and Tibet, Africa and America, meets everyone from rich guy (Stellan Skarsgard) and a Chinese “student” (Ming Zhao) to an African warlord and South America drug lord (Jean Reno). He re-connects with college pals (Toni Collette among them) who have gotten on with the business of living.
Along the way, he picks up all kinds of “rules” and advice for happy living. These are strictly fortune-cookie philosophies, and the travels — odd moments of slapstick or offhanded Pegg one-liners, exchanges with a young Buddhist monk who tells him the monastery he’s trekked to is “closed on Monday” — are trite, tried and true.
None of which add up to the catharsis the quest promises or the comedy the film supposedly is. Hector might have been better off staying at home and reading a book, which also pretty much applies to the audience, in this case.
ROGER MOORE, Tribune News Service
TAKE ME TO THE RIVER ⋆⋆ ½ out of four stars • Rating: PG for language, smoking. • Theater: Lagoon.
Blues music’s most famous crossroads is in the Mississippi Delta, but it truly hit the highway 75 miles north in the river city of Memphis, branching off into R&B (B.B. King, Bobby Blue Bland), rock ’n’ roll (Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis) and soul (Otis Redding, Al Green). “Take Me to the River” tries to stake out a new crossroads as director Martin Shore pairs modern rappers and rockers with Memphis veterans in the recording studio.
Musically, the results are pretty unrewarding — watching Green’s Hi-powered rhythm section try to spin gold with actor/narrator/would-be songwriter Terrence Howard, you’ll think: What a waste — but the personal interactions provide plenty of moments that will appeal to music fans. Mavis and Yvonne Staples squeal with delight over an old recording of their father Pops. Bland teaches pint-size rapper Lil P-Nut how to project from the diaphragm, and outlines the differences between Baptist and Methodist singing (one is about crying, the other precise diction).
The younger guys, including Snoop Dogg, take a reverential tone as they interact with such R&B stars as Booker T, William Bell, Otis Clay and Bobby Rush. It’s well-deserved for as the movie notes, Memphis’ greatest generation is slipping away. Three of the guitar marvels shown here — Hubert Sumlin, Teenie Hodges and Skip Pitts — have died since filming. This is a marginal but worthwhile footnote to their legacy.