“Love Happens” is a comedy in mourning, a romance so sad that even Jennifer Aniston at her most engaging can’t save it.
The writer of the deadly “Dragonfly” has been promoted to writer-director for this one, and despite having the same template as a hundred screen romances, he can’t make it work.
Aaron Eckhart is Burke Ryan, the prototypical lonely man in need of love. He’s a motivational speaker, a guy getting rich running self-help get-over-grief seminars. His hook, the one he cashed in on with his best-seller, “A-Okay,” is simple — “My wife died.”
He and his manager (Dan Fogler, half as funny as usual) are about to turn that hook into a huge multi-media deal. But our lonely man has a dark secret. They all do.
Aniston is the quirky girl who can make him love again. Eloise is a florist who saves copies of the touching cards folks send with their flowers. She writes odd words from the dictionary like “quidnunc” behind the paintings at the Seattle hotel where Burke is giving a seminar. She has an oddball slam-poet employee-pal (Judy Greer, naturally). She even has the “car with character,” a ’60s vintage Ford Falcon delivery van. She has just bailed on her latest bad relationship. And when she meets Burke, she blows him off by pretending to be deaf.
Can these two lost souls find each other? Without him learning sign language?
Whatever thin potential “Love Happens” had is utterly botched by co-writer/director Brandon Camp, son of “Benji” filmmaker Joe Camp. He struggles to find a laugh in the first half hour, delivers a nice comic confrontation that he never repeats and works in a funny bit about Burke’s wife’s cockatoo — he calls it a “parrot,” which he bird-naps from his bitter in-laws (Martin Sheen and Deirdre Blades).
But Camp bogs down in the Dr. Phil side of the story — Burke’s efforts to “help” people and come to terms with his own grief. Eckhart plays “broken” for the whole movie and Aniston plays herself — as a florist.
“Love Happens” doesn’t bring tears and what’s worse, doesn’t create sparks. That’s a crying shame.