A decade on from his fairly beloved filmmaking debut Garden State, Zach Braff’s second effort is a tricky one to value. It’s a dramedy that mixes some often misplaced drama with some often misjudged comedy. But within this trove of mild faults are a small number of successful platitudes about ageing, penance, and (hold your breath) faith that check enough cerebral boxes to make the experience worth a watch – at home, at least.
Most of the laughs the film tries to get either fizzle without notice or feel too goofy for a film that bases its morals so deeply in reality. For every chuckle-worthy Game of Throne post-coitus role-play scene, there’s one out-of-place sex scene with comic con cos-players, two tired references to cats “on the YouTubes”, and a signature ‘weird’ kid that would feel more at place in an Adam Sandler film. A little subtlety could have gone a long way for the humour at play.
The things Braff manages to achieve, though, help wade through the lake of flat gags. The rapport his character Aidan has with his family feels genuine, going a long way to sell their collective anguish centred on his cancer-ridden father. Even if some story tangents conclude to no effect (the sci-fi fantasy sequences are too sparse to hold a point), the main thematic thread – that kindness can be its own universe worthy of your belief – is delivered rather well, putting the film above the sum of its creaky parts.
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