DVD Review: A Happening of Monumental Proportions (2017)

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The consummate scene-stealer, in some ways it's fitting that – having built an impressive career playing flirty best friends or frenemies in romantic comedies, oddballs who give indie dramas moments of levity, or as in the case of TV's Arrested Development become viewer favorites on par with the main cast – Judy Greer's directorial debut would focus on memorable supporting characters.

From paramedics (Katie Holmes and Nat Faxon) who take a doughnut but leave a body to an HR rep (Kumail Nanjiani) who says, "I may not be a registered therapist but I am a registered friend," A Happening of Monumental Proportions is filled with enough eccentric characters and moments of genuinely amusing dialogue that we imagine Greer would’ve gravitated to even as a performer.

Unfortunately none of it makes much sense as actor Gary Lundy's screenwriting debut plays as though he took a series of half-finished short stories and character sketches and – after unsuccessfully trying to weave them together into a cohesive tapestry – just left it as is and moved on, which is when the film just arbitrarily stops.

Missing an overall plotline, save for what seems to be a main arc revolving around school officials’ attempts to hide the dead body of a groundskeeper from not only the students but (more importantly) the parents on Career Day, there's nothing very Monumental about this particular Happening.

With no real lead save for Common's affable widowed father Daniel who gets fired right before his Career Day presentation thanks to a series of increasingly convoluted events which are brought to life by an enviable cast, A Happening is driven by its supporting players. And although it has its moments, Lundy and Greer's attempt at Altmanesque dramedy is a forgettable mess.

More focused on building scenes than worrying about how they fit into the film overall, the film wastes far too much time on cameos such as the phallus obsessed cuckolded spouse of Jennifer Garner's Nadine, which is played with so much gusto that it will make you look at stoic John Wick actor Keanu Reeves in a whole new light.

To Greer's credit, in the tonally staccato feature moments like this aim for and every once in awhile stick their landing as comedic fodder. Yet far too often – as in the case of poor Reeves – they're so over-the-top that you wonder if they were the result of unrestrained improv.

And by throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks, Happening's storytellers miss the forest for the trees, looking past what could have been a much better movie involving the unlikely About a Boy style bond between Anders Holm's suicidal music teacher and a precocious new student that’s hidden in plain sight.

Of course, with so many loose threads, that's just one of many directions that the film (which was actually produced by About a Boy helmers Paul and Chris Weitz) could've gone. Still in the end you wish that – like kids figuring out what they want to be when they grow up on Career Day – the otherwise gifted Greer would've really taken the time to ask herself what she wanted the meandering Happening to be when it made its way from script to screen.

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