Love Happens (Universal Pictures, PG-13)

Even the most casual moviegoer can deduce how events will play out since co-writer/director Brandon Camp hasn’t attempted to create a single original or memorable moment in the entire movie.

 

There are very few positive things to be said about Love Happens. It does have the distinction, however, of being the most ineffectual romantic comedy of the new millennium due to poor chemistry between its two leads, Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston, a wholly depressing storyline and virtually no humor to speak of.

Burke Ryan (Eckhart) is a self-help guru who leads weekend seminars for people dealing with the loss of loved ones. His book has amassed a large following of people who look to him for ways to cope with their grief. What they don’t know about him and the audience isn’t surprised to learn is that Burke himself has never dealt with the death of his wife which spurred him to write the book several years ago.

While giving a seminar in Seattle, where he and his wife lived, Burke meets Eloise (Aniston), a local flower shop owner who has a track record of bad luck with men. After a slow and tenuous start, the two find a mutual affection for one another and soon Burke is giving more attention to Eloise than to his potential network sponsorship much to the chagrin of his manager Lane (Dan Fogler).

Even the most casual moviegoer can deduce how events will play out since co-writer/director Brandon Camp hasn’t attempted to create a single original or memorable moment in the entire movie. It plays like a watered down Hugh Grant movie and, in fact, might have been more enjoyable if Grant had been in the lead role. Camp does nothing to create a sense of pain for Burke and isn’t able to coach his actors into giving anything but the most superficial of performances. Unbelievably, he also throws in a grossly unnecessary storyline with Burke’s father-in-law (Martin Sheen) which adds nothing to the movie except 20 minutes which should have been cut in the editing room.

Eckhart is a fine actor with an impressive resume of performances most Hollywood actors never achieve. Here, however, Eckhart looks bored and flat as if he can’t believe he is actually in this movie. Camp, a novice director, clearly doesn’t trust this veteran actor as he doesn’t allow Eckhart to show the audience Burke’s pain; we are only told he is in pain. Likewise, Aniston is more tiresome and boring than ever before (which is saying a lot) and never once puts any emotion into any line she delivers. Assumedly, she must be counting on her looks to get her through the movie without having to exert any energy at all.

The only thing that makes Love Happens tolerable is John Carroll Lynch as Walter, a reluctant attendee at Burke’s seminar. Walter is dealing with the death of his young son and is very skeptical about Burke’s methods. Lynch imbues Walter with so much truth and realism that his few scenes are the only time the audience will actually feel some sense of interest in the movie. Lynch is a superb actor and is rarely noticed in films because of his ability to fully become his characters. He is a large, intimidating man but brings great depth and vulnerability to Walter making him seem dwarfed by those around him. This performance can only be attributed to Lynch’s natural talent as an actor and not to Camp’s abilities as a director. It would be a compliment to call Camp mediocre and a lie to call him anything more. | Matthew F. Newlin

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