Welcome to Happiness

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Welcome to Happiness Movie Poster Image
Somewhat likable but ultimately uneven comedy-fantasy.
  • PG-13
  • 2016
  • 108 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Encourages viewers to think about their actions and to consider that even the negative ones can have positive effects (sometimes). Some viewers might pick up on subtle themes along the lines of "everything happens for a reason" and "teamwork," but they're less clear.

Positive Role Models & Representations

No one here is particularly admirable -- or three-dimensional, for that matter.

Violence

A secondary character comes close to attempting suicide with a gun. A young woman is missing a hand as the result of a car accident. Spoken story of a robbery that involves shooting and death. Spoken story about parents dying in a car crash. Sounds of arguing neighbors through apartment walls.

Sex

Kissing and sex between main characters. No graphic nudity.

Language

"Goddamn," "shut up."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Story of a drunk driver.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Welcome to Happiness is a comedy-drama-fantasy about a little door that allows whoever uses it to potentially change events from their past. Though the movie is very uneven, it also has a good spirit, and many teens may find it a positive experience. But the content is a bit mature, so it's not a great fit for younger viewers. There's a near-suicide attempt with a gun, as well as verbal stories about violent events (including guns and shooting). A young woman is missing a hand as the result of a car accident, and drunk driving and parental loss are discussed. The main couple kisses passionately, starts to remove their clothing, and climbs into bed for sex, but there's no nudity. Language is minimal, with nothing stronger than uses of "goddamn" and "shut up."

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What's the story?

In WELCOME TO HAPPINESS, children's author Woody (Kyle Gallner) is stuck on his latest book. It doesn't help that he's also a kind of gatekeeper; in his apartment's closet is a tiny door, and behind it seems to be a way to undo past mistakes. Strangers come to his apartment, he reads them questions and shows them colored rocks, and they enter the door. Woody becomes increasingly obsessed with entering the door himself, much to the annoyance of his girlfriend, Trudy (Olivia Thirlby). Meanwhile, a rare baseball card connects two strangers and sets a new series of events in motion.

Is it any good?

It's hard to hate Oliver Thompson's debut feature; it's a truly heartfelt effort, but it's also not very good. Welcome to Happiness is an arrhythmic mess of ideas and scenes, sabotaged by a bad ending. The movie has an overwhelmingly positive attitude, and it might make viewers feel good about how "everything happens for a reason." But that's also the kind of positive attitude that can quickly grow annoying, like an over-eager puppy.

In a small role, Keegan-Michael Key has one or two funny moments, but Nick Offerman, also in a small role, seems wrongly cast. Scenes with minor characters, like the sad baseball card collector (Josh Brener) and the suicidal artist (Brendan Sexton III), seem dropped in almost at random, with no story flow. Likewise, most of the main plot threads seem to either stall or lurch ahead, and mediocre pop tunes are mixed in too loudly and too often. And the ending -- which feels like it's out of a Renaissance Faire -- just makes you want to scream.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violent incidents that happened in the characters' pasts. What's the general reaction to these events? How does hearing about these kinds of things compare to seeing them brought to life? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How does Welcome to Happiness handle sex? What is the characters' attitude toward it? How much sexual content in media is appropriate for kids?

  • Do you agree with the movie's idea that "everything happens for a reason"? Why or why not?

  • Would you change an event from your past if you had the chance? What would it be, and why? How do you think it might impact your life?

Movie details

For kids who love offbeat movies

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