Plot: Nate (Jemaine Clement) has been working on the same play for four years, but he remains focused on the project, even as other parts of his life seem to collapse all around him. His wife has been worn down by his lack of progress and lack of attention to his family, so she lets him know she is leaving him and taking their son. She is off to start a new life with a billionaire and as he can’t afford the rent, Nate needs to find a new place to live soon. Out of options and with nowhere else to turn, he heads a senior living development to move in with his father, Bob (Elliott Gould). The two have a strained relationship and early on, that seems like it will continue, as Bob pushes his son to be productive, while Nate feels trapped and stuck. He soon finds himself folding towels to help his dad with the bills, but is drawn to a small theater group, with the allure of getting his creative side active again. But can Nate find some inspiration is such an unlikely situation?
Entertainment Value: Humor Me tries to weave a sentimental, warm tale of personal redemption, but I found it to be overly safe and predictable. The material leans on broad humor and basic characters, which leads to a broad, basic movie and that doesn’t seem to be what Humor Me wants to be. I don’t mind sentimental movies, but if you want to go all warm and fuzzy, you have to earn those beats and in Humor Me, little groundwork is done to earn the feels. Nate is introduced to us as a self centered, rather oblivious dude, one that has ignored his own family as he wallows in self pity, but the movie switches gears on that too soon. A gradual, organic shift would have worked wonders and here, we have a more immediate change in Nate. I think the writer just wanted to keep him as likable as possible to protect the sentiment, but I think seeing real change would have redeemed him and served a better result. On the plus side, if you like vaudeville style jokes, Humor Me has them in droves.
The cast here boasts some impressive talent and for me, the movie’s bright spot was the work of Jemaine Clement. He is able to elevate the script and bring a lot to his role beyond the dialogue, with a general presence that conveys the nature of Nate in an unmistakable fashion. His mannerisms are the best part of his performance, as the script doesn’t make the best use of his talent. Clement is a capable lead, but he is pushed to be overly likable and sentimental here, when I think he’s better at a more begrudging, but natural shift in persona. I wish the material let him use more of his nature smarmy presence, but he is still fun to watch here. Elliott Gould shows flashes of how good his character could be, but again, the script is content to stay sappy and evade the depth of his character. The rest of the cast is fine, with Ingrid Michaelson, Bebe Neuwirth, Maria Dizzia, and Annie Potts in prominent roles. I found Humor Me to be an inconsistent watch, but for those who prefer a more broad, sentimental style of humor, it is worth a look.