1 1/2 out of 4 stars
It’s probably safe to assume that if Josh Radnor didn’t currently play the lead character on the hugely popular CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother,” “happythankyoumoreplease” (htymp) would never have been made. Crammed into the “indy/art-house” bracket solely because of its shoestring budget, “htymp” could just as easily been adapted into an overlong “Mother” episode or a shortened Lifetime channel special.
Feeble, shortsighted and shrill, the “htymp” tagline line is “go out and get yourself loved” as if love itself was as easy as ordering take out food or joining a health club. As absurd and illogical as the tagline is, it perfectly describes the motivations and behavior of the six main characters. If you want love bad enough, by gosh you’ll get it — no matter how false or contrived it might come off on screen.
In addition to writing and directing, Radnor plays one of two guys named Sam (let’s call him Sam No. 1), a floundering, unfocused would-be novelist who is about to turn 30. Wandering aimlessly trying to find the meaning of his life — whatever that is — Sam No. 1 takes it upon himself to rescue Rasheen (Michael Algieri), a black toddler who is separated from his foster family on the subway. Never mind what he’s doing is technically kidnapping, Sam No. 1 is in desperate need of a project — that will give him something to do.
In addition to believing he’s a humanitarian, Sam No. 1 notices that Rasheen has real talent as an artist and that he’s a major babe magnet. In short order Sam No. 1 uses Rasheen to get in with a girl both from and named Mississippi (Kate Mara), a waitress/cabaret singer.
Couple No. 2 features Sam No. 2 (Tony Hale), an overly sensitive office drone type who wants to save and then marry co-worker Annie (Malin Ackerman). Stricken with alopecia and bad taste in men, Annie is also Sam No. 1’s best friend who is never at a loss when offering romantic and professional advise to him. Either she’s incompetent or he’s not listening.
The third couple includes Mary (Zoe Kazan) another one of Sam No. 1’s gal pals who has either the hardest or simplest dilemma of the bunch. Mary’s not-quite-a-boyfriend Charlie (Pablo Schreiber) has just returned from L.A. and he thinks the two of them should pull up stakes and relocate. Mind you, he has no solid career prospects in L.A. as of yet and she’s in love with all things Manhattan. Theirs is a dead-end, one-note subplot.
Like the overly precious title, the film’s dialogue is a non-stop barrage of quirky one-liners meant to deliver mantra-like heft and spiritual awareness but actually come off like generic fortune cookie true-isms. No one in the real world — save for fictional TV 20-somethings — talk, act or think like they do and Radnor’s pie-eyed approach to his material makes it all the more glaringly awkward.
There are just enough glimmers of hope in Ackerman, Hale and Mara’s performances (but not his own) to suggest that Radnor could give this filmmaking thing another stab with far better results. What he’ll need to do first is check out other films made by other sitcom leading men — Zach Braff’s “Garden State” and David Schwimmer’s upcoming “Trust” — and take note that those movies look or feel like nothing he or anyone else is already doing on TV. (Anchor Bay)