Like goods stamped out from a template on an assembly line, Hollywood can grind out formulaic movies like “Love Happens” with factory precision. Its familiar parts are interchangeable with any number of other cinematic products.
It’s a good thing that “Love Happens” has a strong cast. Otherwise, this three-hankie weeper might have been unbearable.
Aaron Eckhart (“The Dark Knight”) leads the cast as Burke Ryan, a self-help guru who is in need of a bit of help himself.
Burke has cashed in on his grief. A widower who lost his wife in an automobile accident, Burke wrote a book called “A-Okay” about dealing with the loss of a loved one. He now tours the country lecturing grief-stricken survivors at expensive seminars.
But, of course, Burke has never really dealt with his wife’s death and is actually a colossal hypocrite.
Reluctantly returning to Seattle (the site of his wife’s death) to conduct his workshops, Burke’s neediness is all too evident. He refuses to use elevators and drinks all alone in his hotel room, violating the rules he laid down in his own book.
Things begin to change when he encounters a pretty florist named Eloise, played by Jennifer Anniston (“He’s Just Not That Into You”). Among the qualities that the screenwriters hope you will find endearing in Eloise is her penchant for writing obscure words on the hotel walls, hidden behind the paintings.
Of course, these two begin an awkward flirtation. But poor Burke still is carrying too much baggage to have a relationship with anyone. Eloise is coming off of a recent breakup and isn’t quite ready to take the plunge, either.
Will Eloise find a way to help Burke make a breakthrough? Will Burke be there for Eloise when she needs him? Will Lassie save the boy who fell in the well?
Director Brandon Camp and co-writer Mike Thomson (“Dragonfly”) have obviously seen a lot of movies. Their screenplay contains so many recycled clichés that you may swear that you’ve seen it before.
Of course, Eckhart and Anniston make an unusually attractive couple. But, better yet, they’re talented actors who manage to find a few moments of authenticity in this hackneyed setup.
Camp has populated his movie with gifted supporting players, too, including Martin Sheen, Judy Greer, Dan Fogler, Frances Conroy and (most effectively) John Carroll Lynch.
But “Love Happens” is maudlin and mawkish factory-made commodity that rarely seems sincere. (PG-13) Rating: **
* Avoid at all costs
** Only if you're bored
*** Good movie
**** Well worth your time
***** Be sure to see it