THIS WAS HARD TO WRITE AND STILL READS AS TOO FANCY LANGUAGE-Y
“Welcome To Happiness” is a movie about sad people becoming happy. As such, its title is impressively accurate. I felt real dumb when I realized that, because it took me three or four tries to nail down a synopsis. I could’ve just used the title instead.
Someone on Hubski commented that “Welcome to Happiness” reminded them of Wes Anderson movies. It's easy to see why; the whimsical style, magic realism, and like-ours-but-not alternate reality are Anderson canon hallmarks. “Welcome to Happiness” relies strongly on these traits for its success as well. However, it doesn't feel derivative. There were a few scenes later in “Happiness” that were very Anderson-esque on a visual level. I found the similarities undeniable, but it was only a few scenes.
As an impossible story with roots in almost-reality, “Welcome to Happiness” pulls it off. Yes, I admit that if you actually try to nail down the plot, or wedge its characters into “real life,” you will end with grumbles. When the main plot device of your movie is a little magic door in an apartment closet which goes somewhere - else, viewer belief requires total suspension. It is simply bad form to swallow a little magic interior closet-door but choke on the concept that the main character answers his door when strangers knock. Or possesses a dot matrix printer full of questions. Or has never wondered where his magic closet door goes.
“Welcome to Happiness” keeps a pretty steady clip going until its last 20 minutes. Three concurrent storylines unfold and interlock during the movie.Each scene is both vivid and impactful. All this surface-level action kept me as a viewer engaged from moment-to-moment, so I stayed more interested in the movie than my usual. The rapid pace was a smart directorial decision. Since a lot happens rather quickly, the audience’s attention stays in each scene. To metaphor: drop a man in a lazy river and he can swim out any second. Put him in a quick one, though, and let the current keep him. (The man's your audience. the river's your movie. You don't want your audience to be able to leave your movie freely. You want them to stay in it.)
Sometimes the script is not great. It can be a little awkward, like “this character just needed to say yes here so dialogue,” from time to time. I noticed this more in the first half. The movie seemed to gain in confidence as it progressed. That being said, there’s almost a solid useless 20 minutes at the end full of music, dancing, and heavy-handed visual tie-ins between character resolution and mystic apartment wall mural, not to mention a borderline-trite, 90% visual (again) wrap-up which promises that all our characters do have happy endings and end up dating each other, because if you didn’t package your plot in a box tied with a ribbon cascade, no one would know when your movie is over. Did you know?
All in all, “Welcome to Happiness” was an uplifting feel-good pseudo-intellectual indie baby which will make you feel better about life. I enjoyed it. In many ways it is exactly what I want out of a movie — entertainment, leisure, an escape, a brighter reality. If you want, it’s easy to argue with “Welcome To Happiness”’s “deeper message.” But a movie that plays at philosophy is just a movie, which means we should hold it to the same standards as shit like “Neighbors 2,” not "The Book of Virtues." Will "Welcome to Happiness" entertain you and give your day a more positive bent? You betcha. Is it more interesting than anything in theaters right now? Well golly yup. Will it make you think you're thinking, but not really? You betcha, by golly, wow. So quit being lazy and watch it. Besides, Hubski 'bros, man. Gotta rep.