Review: ‘A Little Help’
2. "A Little Help" takes place in Port Washington, Long Island, and, to its credit, it's not about Rob Roy-drinking men named Brantforth Covington-Fordham or Manhattanites choosing romantic couplings while playing beach volleyball. It is written and directed by Michael J. Weithorn, who is best known for creating "The King of Queens," which was a better show than you probably think it is, particularly if you just saw "Zookeeper." What that show did well was present a likable, believable lower-middle-class family with real jobs, real concerns and real consequences. (Well, all right, Sitcom Real.) Which is why it's a surprise that "A Little Help" is such a misguided dud. It remembers to set its story in a tangible, breathing place, but it forgets to provide the story.
3. Jenna Fisher plays Laura, a thirtysomething mother who is put upon in every aspect of her life. Her husband is cheating on her, her good-hearted son dislikes her intrusiveness, her parents think she's a screwup and her job doesn't give her enough hours to get by. The dramatic wrench thrown into this mess? Her husband (played by Chris O'Donnell, that walking empty shrug of a human) drops dead of a heart attack, turning Laura into ... well, actually, she sorta stays the same put-upon sad sack she was beforehand. Her mother hates her, her sister hates her, her lawyer hates her and her kid hates her, which is strange, because Laura (as played by Fisher) is so likable and so obviously more pleasant than everyone else in the film, you wonder if she secretly tortures animals when the camera isn't on her. Laura is the only person in this film who isn't a monster, a shorthand that might work in a sitcom but is just cartoonish in a feature film. Do you think it's believable that an entire family to sit down a grieving widow at the funeral for her husband (who died suddenly and unexpectedly) and scream at her for being irresponsible? "A Little Help" does.
4. There's actually one other character in "A Little Help" who isn't bats--t insane, Laura's brother-in-law, so this movie, lacking anyone else for any other character to talk to, turns him into a romantic lead, entirely inappropriately. (Ladies, if a man ever tells you, "I just married your sister to get closer to you," RUN LIKE HELL.) Everyone else is awful. And for a guy who loves Long Island, Weithorn does his homeland few favors, making the whole community look dingy, worn-down and dreary. I thought he liked this place? The movie is more interested in being a drama about this poor woman than being a comedy, but the drama has no real depth or narrative progression (this is the type of movie in which when a character needs to feel shame, Weithorn directs his extras to all stare at the character and shake their heads and/or wag their finger), and it's also not particularly funny. At least "The King of Queens" was funny. Well, occasionally.