The Answer Man
Directed by John Hindman
Remember As Good As It Gets? (Refresher: hostile recluse improbably convinces normal lady with a kid to fall for him even though she deserves much, much better.) If you recycle that storyline but use schmaltzy dinner theater music to heighten the drama and watch actor talent go to waste because of a brittle script you get... The Answer Man. Jeff Daniels plays Arlen Faber, whose book, Me & God, has been a successful spiritual touchstone for 20 years. In reality, Arlen is far from enlightened ; he's antisocial and irritable, communicating with no one but his agent. Until: he throws out his back and has to venture into the world, landing at the office of chiropractor/healer Lorelai Gilmore (sorry, Lauren Graham; is there really a difference?). She manages to fix his back and, of course, capture his heart.
The predictable plot is made worse by Arlen being about as legitimate a prophet as the tattered guys who sweep through the A train and try to convince commuters to "bask in the light of the Lord" between express stops. Which becomes evident when a young recovering alcoholic Kris (Lou Taylor Pucci) seeks Arlen out for haloed wisdom and gets counsel that's neither revelatory nor helpful. When Arlen later makes a rare bookstore appearance and finds a devoted rapt audience of disciples like Kris, he is unable to continue his guru charade. But his moment of clarity comes long after the audience's: we've never found someone as sour and charmless as Arlen to be believably spiritual or knowledgeable.
While the theme of grasping at straws to find hope is a very relatable concept, debuting writer-director John Hindman overplays his hand, presenting indiscriminate people, desperate enough that they'll swallow whatever is presented to them for guidance. The same lack of discernment cannot be attributed to the moviegoing public.
Opens July 24