The Answer Man: Why, Jeff Daniels, Why?

In his quiet way, Jeff Daniels can coax to vivid life the most cardboard type—which is just as well, given that the rich but reclusive spiritual writer he plays in John Hindman's pedestrian romantic comedy is not so bad, he's just drawn that way. Daniels' Arlen Faber is an acerbic loner whose glib pronouncements have made him a conveniently distant guru to the lonely and disaffected. His smug misanthropy is disrupted when a lovely chiropractor and single mom (Gilmore Girls' excellent Lauren Graham) and a hapless young drunk (Lou Taylor Pucci) enter his life and—blah, blah—bring home to him the power of mutual rescue. Writer-director Hindman is a stand-up comedian with many Turgenev-size issues on his mind—inadequate fathers and troubled sons, overprotective mothers, the search for belief—whose weight this slight picture can hardly bear. But the laid-back charm of Daniels and Graham's bumpy courtship gives the movie a much-needed edge of idiosyncrasy. The lovely and talented Kat Dennings (Charlie Bartlett, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) and Olivia Thirlby (Juno) go completely to waste in kooky-sidekick roles.

 
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