Jennifer Aniston, Aaron Eckhart, Judy Greer, Dan Fogler, Martin Sheen
Brandon Camp, Mike Thompson
As bland a title as is "Love Happens," so goes the film starring Aaron Eckhart as Burke, a widowed self-help author whose encounter with Eloise (Jennifer Aniston), of course, sets him on the path to healing and love and blah, blah, blah.
Co-written by Mike Thompson and director Brandon Camp, "Love Happens" is billed as a romantic comedy yet works on a far greater level in terms of the weighty material it handles and the immensely more satisfying relationship between Burke and his father-in-law (Martin Sheen), who share some emotionally resonant scenes together.
For an emotionally resonant film about widowhood and grief, Philip Seymour Hoffman's "Love Liza" is far more powerful, insightful and authentically written, though anyone who has seen the film will at least testify that there's nary a laugh to be found in it. Unfortunately, the same is largely true for "Love Happens," a film that tries so hard to be natural and funny that instead it feels forced and uncomfortable in much the same way we felt watching Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck trying to be convincingly romantic during their brief foray into cinematic couplehood.
That's the big problem here. While Aaron Eckhart gives a relaxed, comfortable performance, he and Aniston make an awkward and unconvincing couple and Aniston periodically feels like she's striking a romantic pose rather than actually in a relationship.
Dan Fogler, who has always been so brilliant on Broadway, continues to struggle to find a convincing celluloid project with his performance here as Burke's cocky agent coming off as an unfunny mix between the worst of Jack Black and the hype of Tom Cruise's Jerry Maguire. As Eloise's boss, Judy Greer is relegated to second fiddle but at least doesn't embarrass herself here.
It goes without saying that "Love Happens" is filled with virtually every romantic comedy cliche' including the on again, off again attraction to the inevitable moment when Burke achieves insight, confesses the hypocrisy of his self-help teachings and is subsequently applauded with the kind of slow-building applause that would have felt right at home in "Not Another Teen Movie."
Ultimately, Eckhart can't carry the film himself and everyone else involved seems content to settle for mediocrity. It's hard not to get the feeling that Burke may very well be modeled after Aniston, who for some reason keeps picking these "unlucky in love" roles while professing happiness in public. There's not much worse than a romantic comedy that is neither romantic nor funny. Love may very well, indeed, happen...just not in this film.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic