Any one-man crusade is likely to fail, but a rom-com character's war against sincerity is doomed from the start. Recently unemployed David (pastor-turned-actor Joe Boyd) has good reasons for being a Negative Nancy, and his aloofness earns him early triumphs over the omnipresent forces of perkiness and optimism.
But writer-director Brad Wise's "A Strange Brand of Happy" is determined to make David experience the film's titular emotion: delight in the knowledge that fulfilling one's potential pleases God too. So along comes a lady ex machina in life coach Joyce (Christian singer Rebecca St. James, mugging her heart out), who urges David to take online quizzes, volunteer at a retirement home and take his drawing more seriously. Incidentally, not on the list: finding a job.
Competing for Joyce's affections is David's ex-boss (Hunter Shepard), an overly tanned, hair-gelled creep. With the help of the residents at the old folks home — all on Team David — the aspiring artist finally reveals a softer side: his love for God, illustrated by hand.
But David is most winsome when he's cracking self-deprecating jokes, as when he kids that his identification as a "creative feeler" by one of Joyce's personality tests makes him sound like an "artistic molester." The character's 11th-hour conversion to faith and sentimentality, then, feels like a personality exorcism. There's nothing strange about David's happiness — and nothing compelling either.
"A Strange Brand of Happy"
MPAA rating: PG-13 for some suggestive material
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
Playing: Regency Plant 16, Van NuysCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times