A junior-varsity Magnolia
Loves: Nick Offerman, Keegan Michael Key, Paget Brewster
Likes: Josh Brener, quirky films
Dislikes: Style without substance
Hates: Old accepted corporate sexism
Children's book author Woody (TV vet Kyle Gallner) has a unique situation at home: randomly a dot-matrix printer will spit out questions, a stranger will appear at his door, and, if the questions are answered correctly, the person will enter a door in Woody's closet and disappear. That's the extent of Woody's understanding of the set-up, and it messes with him (along with an inability to complete a new book.) He is part of a web of interactions the film builds, including suicidal Nyles (Brendan Sexton), who, through a chance connection with a baseball-card collector named Ripley (Silicon Valley's Josh Brener), becomes connected to the offbeat Trudy (Olivia Thirlby) and eccentric Proctor (Key). There are a lot of coincidences and quasi-magical elements, not unlike Magnolia--only less subtle and less interesting.
As the film's writer, Thompson has to take the hit for the scramble of the plot, but as director he can take some credit for the film's quality performances and polished overall look, even if that look may feel very familiar, as there's a distinct Wes Anderson-like atmosphere, with precise production design and camera movement (aided by DP Justin Talley.) Once in awhile, Thompson and company give in to the temptation to allow style to overcome substance (as in one gratuitous slow-motion shot), but for the most part the flourishes add to the experience. The Andersonian influence extends to the music as well, where Thompson served as composer and Peter LeClair provided the songs for the soundtrack. While the score fits well, the songs are aggressively prioritized in the film, attempting to position them as a storytelling device like in classic films such as The Graduate or, again, Anderson's movies, but this tends to instead draw attention to them and separates them from the film. Once more, it's an example of how the film struggled to pull together its ingredients into a single tasty dish.
Welcome to Happiness arrives on one DVD, packed in a standard keepcase. The disc has a static menu with options to watch the film, select scenes, adjust languages and check out the extras. Audio options include Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 tracks, and while there are no subtitles, closed captioning is available.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track does a fine job of delivering the dialogue and music, with what's mainly a front-focused mix, with some spillover into the surrounds. Sound effects aren't particularly noteable, and the low-end isn't going to get much attention, but outside of an at-times heavy presence by the soundtrack, there's nothing to complain about with this track.
There's also a 5:29 deleted sequence available to watch, a rather large segment to excise from a film, but it doesn't have a large enough impact to justify its inclusion in the movie. The scene has optional commentary by Thompson, who discusses why the scene was cut and talks about why it was a tough decision for him.
Also included is the 1:58 trailer for the film, which certainly makes it look like a film you'd want to watch.
There are a lot of parts that would belong in a good film here, especially when it comes to the cast and the visual style, but they don't come together into a cohesive whole, thanks to a meandering, convoluted plot that gets tangled up in fantasy and emotion, making its nearly two-hour length feel longer than it is. The presentation here is solid and there are some extras to check out if you dig the flick, but there are other, better options for your time. Hopefully, Thompson has another crack at a feature, and works with a co-writer to tighten things up, or perhaps dials back the ambition to create something more manageable.