'Stranger' good, but lacks depth

11/14/2006

By Phil Boatwright
The Movie Reporter 

Stranger Than Fiction
Stars: Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, Emma Thompson
Director: Marc Forster
Rating: PG-13

Will Ferrell plays Harold Crick, an IRS agent whose world is turned upside down when he begins to hear his life being chronicled by a narrator only he can hear. The Narrator (Emma Thompson) is struggling to complete her latest and best book, unaware that her protagonist is alive and uncontrollably guided by her words. Fiction and reality collide when the bewildered Harold hears the Narrator say that events have been set in motion that will lead to his imminent death. 

Harold seeks help from an eccentric professor (Dustin Hoffman) and finds comfort in a burgeoning romance with a defiant audit subject (Maggie Gyllenhaal), as the Narrator gets assistance from Penny Escher (Queen Latifah) to hurry her book along. 

There are now two styles of  Ferrell movies: Comedies where he runs around in at least one scene dressed only in baggy underwear and comedies where he doesn’t. Stranger Than Fiction is an example of the latter. 

Mostly satisfying, the idea, though clever, strains that portion of our brain that must suspend disbelief. It does produce funny moments and a sensitive scene or two, and it is nice to see a comedy sans anatomical and scatological humor. However, the film falls short in whatever philosophical profundity may be hidden beneath its Twilight Zone-ish otherworldliness.   

True, no one seeks movies with a deep message, but it’s always nice when a clever film also bears meaning. About the best lessons here are that opposites attract and a good man should be recognized.  

Many Christians will find the inclusion of God’s name followed by a curse from the film’s otherwise placid hero irreverent and off-putting. Why is it that nearly all films from this generation contain some form of disbelief or disrespect for the Creator? 

For other free reviews from Boatwright’s perspective, go to www.previewonline.org.