Stranger than Fiction
Time Out says
There’s cute, cutesy and oppressively cute-o-licious. Stranger than Fiction roosts itself at that last level of toxic preciousness; you’ll want to schedule your root canal now. Designed by scripter Zach Helm to a rare degree of self-satisfied cleverness, the movie is beyond gimmicky, like a TV commercial run rampant to feature length. That initial impression isn’t helped by Helm’s first of a steady stream of contrivances: the buzzing swarm of onscreen graphics—just like in Fight Club, but, you know, now—mapping out the seconds and meters of the pathetic life of Harold Crick (Ferrell), the kind of nebbishy hero-accountant that exists only in the minds of Hollywood screenwriters.
Crick honky-walks his way to work until he hears the clipped tones of the voice of our narrator (Thompson), and takes polite offense. Aw. Turns out she’s a British author prone to unhappy endings. Double aw! Surely a romantic thaw with that spunky tax evader (Gyllenhaal) and lots of frantic running lies ahead if Crick is to somehow avoid his early demise.
But just because Dustin Hoffman shows up to declare, in gravelly Huckabees mode, that the author’s forthcoming novel is a “masterpiece” doesn’t make this half-smart Adaptation anything close to one. In fact, it’s an uncommonly plastic bit of Hallmark sentiment-mongering, with exactly the kind of New Age psychobabble ending you’d expect. (It doesn’t even have the courage to follow through on its own dopey premise.) Ferrell, in an earnest, noncomic turn, is the movie’s biggest disappointment; if ever there was an actor who relied on his whiny expressiveness to shine, it’s the man behind Ron Burgundy. (Open Fri; Click here for venues.) — Joshua Rothkopf