Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
Wish I Was Here
Comedian Zach Braff (Garden State, Scrubs) directs and stars in "Wish I Was Here," a family comedy about the usual grounds of dysfunction and forgiveness. Braff moves easily here with a timing and charm that is immediate and giggle-inducing, even though his role doesn't reach much beyond his project of the previously mentioned "Garden State."
Here again, the self deprecating and earnestly "good guy" Braff is an actor. In this outing, he is Aidan Bloom, a performer and emotionally-aching dad who hasn't worked in a few years. Aidan tries all he can, trudging to audition after audition but always managing to come up with no calls. He relies on his father Gabe (Mandy Patinkin) to pay his kids' tuition at a private school.
One day, Aidan is floored.
His father is diagnosed with a recurring cancer and needs an exotic treatment; he can't cover expenses.
Aidan goes to his slacker brother Noah (Josh Gad) but nerd Noah is eaten up in apathy and bitterness and is no help.
The kids, Tucker (Pierce Gagnon) and Grace (Joey King) are booted from the yeshiva over lack of finances.
Aidan is at his wits end.
To make matters worse, he suffers from self esteem issues because he is slow to protect his wife Sarah (Kate Hudson) from an obnoxious and sexually rude co-worker Terry (Mark Thudium).
While Braff delivers some honest giggles in trying his best not to add to "The Swear Jar," the plot gets bogged down with his several heart to heart talks with various family members. The exchanges have a 1990s TV feel, and don't come off as anything lively or original.
Aidan's brother Noah is a torpid drooler of a man and while it is well established that he's a confirmed comic geek and a "genius" regarding Pop culture, his role lacks juice.
As in "Fading Gigolo" we see a series of nearly identical, blandly comic aging raspy rabbi visits and the repartee just isn't that funny or lasting.
There are some conventional sad hospital segments and we know when these scenes are actually going to happen well before they actually do.
As the "all business" father Patinkin has some good lines in relating to his grand kids and his role is strong and authentic with pathos in his wanting for both a Good Humor toasted almond ice cream and a visit from Noah.
More often then not, though, the major scenes feel as if they were filmed by a checklist process, alternating as they do from truth-telling and conversation to laughter and sight gags with formula regularity.
The cinematography of the desert, although crisp and striking, had me wishing for "Breaking Bad." A bit of Walter White on the Bloom family tree would have gone a long way.
Despite its conventional lethargy however, Zach Braff's quirky befuddlement and his familiar persona does manage to keep the film from falling into a complete stream of 1s and Os.
If you haven't seen "Garden State" or TV's "Scrubs", this film will induce a few chuckles. But otherwise, it makes for déjà view and other familial forests of swords and spacemen are full of richer fauna.