Parents' Guide to

A Happening of Monumental Proportions

By Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Language, sexual situations in so-so ensemble comedy.

Movie R 2018 81 minutes
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Predictably, with an ensemble this size, this comedy's stories and characters are related in thumbnail sketches rather than fully realized. The script struggles to balance the smallness of everyday concerns (a father coming to speak at his daughter's career day, an office coffee maker getting vandalized, a new student feeling awkward) with larger issues (three deaths hang over the film) and outlandish farce elements (a cheated-on husband demands a meeting, a new boss is tyrannical, the police don't investigate a death). As more and more recognizable actors pop up in the cast (John Cho, Katie Holmes, Kumail Nanjiani, Nat Faxon, and more), the center doesn't hold. Is A Happening of Monumental Proportions about nothing mattering that much -- or everything mattering that much? It seems to want it both ways. As a result, when a character goes so far as to contemplate suicide, there's no real tension.

Farce works best when we're along for the desperate ride, but here, too much behavior is unrealistic for the stakes to matter. On the plus side, Common is a likable presence when he wants to be, just as Whitford is always fun to root against. A couple of the cameos are amusing; the final one helps create the funniest part of the film. There are other funny moments, as when a confident kid declares that her father says you should only do what you love -- and when she says he's an accountant, a fed-up adult responds, "And a liar. An accountant and a liar." But ultimately the film might have benefited from some clarity and from convincing its own characters that each moment truly was A Happening of Monumental Proportions.

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