Artnewspress : A miserable narcoleptic and a gorgeous drama queen find love in Jason Winer’s excessively contrived romantic comedy.
A pretzel of contrivance, “Ode to Joy” belongs to the subgenre of romantic comedies — let’s call them sick-coms — in which one or both partners suffer from a life-threatening disease. Its hero, Charlie (Martin Freeman), has a form of narcolepsy that makes him conk out whenever he experiences pleasure; his devoted brother, Cooper (Jake Lacy), is named after a dog; and his love interest, Francesca (Morena Baccarin), is a gorgeous drama queen as uninhibited as Charlie is constrained.
He first sees her standing on a library table, yelling at her boyfriend. To calm her down, Charlie does what any good librarian would do: gives her a first edition to rip apart. Thus mollified, she connects with this odd man whose illness requires him to fill his shoes with tacks and his mind with horrors just to remain upright. The mere sight of a cute puppy or gurgling baby will lay him out cold, and a kiss from Francesca sends him crashing to the concrete. If he ever gets to second base, it had better be in the vicinity of an E.R.
Inspired by a 2010 segment on “This American Life” titled “I’ve Fallen in Love and I Can’t Get Up,” the director, Jason Winer, conjures a less abrasive silliness than he did in his disastrous 2011 remake of “Arthur.” And Freeman, never the most animated of performers, gives his specific brand of passive British miserabilism free rein. But it’s Melissa Rauch, as Charlie’s safely dull, place-holder girlfriend, who steals the show. The scene where she sings a rousing version of the Cranberries’ “Zombie,” complete with cello accompaniment, is an absurd delight.
None of which makes this movie more than mildly pleasurable. Though even that would probably be too much for Charlie.
Ode to Joy
Rated R for nothing much naughtier than deer-patterned panties. Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes.