There’s a lot going on in the oddly — but aptly — titled “Song of Back and Neck.” So why does this often amusing comedy about chronic pain (yes, that’s correct) feel so thin?
Perhaps it’s because there’s ultimately not enough “there there” in the feature writing-directing debut of Paul Lieberstein (Toby Flenderson on the U.S. version of “The Office”), who, with enjoyably low-key and self-effacing deadpan, also stars as Fred Trolleycar, a middle-aged paralegal plagued by a “trifecta of back and neck problems.”
Lieberstein piles on intersecting story strands involving romantic, workplace and family dynamics to flesh out Fred’s eccentric journey to eradicate his pain, including an acupuncture regimen with surreally musical results (hence the title).
On the plus side, Lieberstein has assembled a fun and talented supporting cast to keep us invested: Rosemarie DeWitt, who’s lovely as Regan, a wealthy, future-divorcee and law firm client unexpectedly drawn to Fred; Clark Duke as his wildly arrogant work superior; Robert Pine as Fred’s retiring dad and longtime employer-enabler; actor-filmmaker Paul Feig playing Fred’s disturbingly blithe doctor; and Brian d’Arcy James as Regan’s neurotic, absentee husband.
But the story, which culminates in an overly wacky third act involving surgery, a near-supernaturally motorized wheelchair and a road trip to the Coachella Music Festival, never comes together as a satisfying whole, even if it all proves relatively painless viewing.
‘Song of Back and Neck’
Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes.
Playing: Starts Friday, Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica; on VOD, Dec. 4