Film Review: Hector & The Search For Happiness (UK, Germany, Canada & South Africa, 2014)

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Hector & The Search For Happiness is about a psychiatrist who sets out on an overseas journey in order to find joy. The idea is hardly a new one, especially as the self-help genre has already seen the likes of Eat Pray Love and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, among others. Unfortunately, Hector’s story is neither a profound spiritual one nor is it a particularly funny or light comedy. Instead, it’s a rambling and hollow romp that is merely pleasant.

Simon Pegg of The Cornetto Trilogy fame stars as the eponymous Hector in this adaptation of a novel by François Lelord. Pegg’s performance is a solid one but the character is difficult to like and appreciate. This guy is more like a man-child and he is already rich insofar as he has a good job, an attractive and sweet girlfriend (an underused, Rosamund Pike) and a nice, inner-city apartment. But Hector is not content with his lot and decides to embark on a trip.

Along this journey of self-discovery, Hector meets a wealthy businessman (Jean Reno) and a sexy, Chinese woman (Ming Zhao). He also meets a drug lord in “Africa” (the actual country is not specified) and he is imprisoned by their militia. He also gets some advice from a Tibetan monk (Togo Igawa) before meeting up with old flame (Toni Collette), who manages to slap some sense into him with the help of a happiness expert, Professor Coreman (Christopher Plummer).

As Hector has new experiences and learns stuff, he writes down his lessons in a journal. But these sit somewhere between garden-variety pop psychology and the contents of a fortune cookie. These are also featured in animated sequences which make for a different touch by director, Peter Chelsom (Hannah Montana). But ultimately, the lessons and guidance feel shallow, obvious and sanctimonious as they’re all things we’ve heard before. It also isn’t helped that Hector isn’t a particularly likeable or engaging character as he is a selfish and self-important white man who feels a sense of entitlement to everything.

Hector & The Search For Happiness is a long, clichéd, contrived and predictable film that doesn’t really succeed as a comedy or a drama. Its soft handling and pithy observations do nothing to endear an inherently unlikeable character and the laboured episodes from his silly life. A series of great cameos could not redeem this uneven and ultimately forgettable film.

Review Score: ONE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

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Hector & The Search For Happiness opens in cinemas on October 23.