Home > Movie, Review > Movie Review: Shortcut to Happiness (2004)

Movie Review: Shortcut to Happiness (2004)

Male and female feet entwined with a red devil's tail.Summary:
Jabez Stone loves writing, and he wants to be a good writer, but he also wants to be a famous one.  When his friend sells his manuscript for a lucrative sum, and Jabez follows this news up by having one of the worst days of his life, he tells the mirror that he’d sell his soul for that success.  Of course the devil comes knocking in the form of a beautiful woman to cut that deal, but fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Review:
Even though they’re all rather obvious and quite predictable, I’ve always enjoyed “sells soul to devil” stories as a sort of movie comfort food.  Yes, we all know what’s going to happen in the end, but the selling the soul part and the part immediately after when everything is going right are actually quite entertaining to watch.  The thing is, these movies can easily go bad if they’re not careful.  There’s fun cheesy, and then there’s eye-rolling cheesy.  Unfortunately, this movie is one of the latter.

It features a fairly impressive cast–Alec Baldwin, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Dan Akroyd, and Kim Cattrall–yet they for the most part fail to deliver.  Jennifer Love Hewitt clearly tries; it’s not her fault she was miscast.  For some reason many of these movies persist in casting Barbie doll fake plastic type actresses in the role of the devil, when it’s obvious a classic femme fatale would be much more accurate.  The devil should be glamorous, not fake.  It’s much harder to see through glamor than fake bullshit.  Dan Akroyd does a good job, but he is underutilized.  As for Baldwin and Cattrall, I had no idea these two can’t actually act, but they can’t.  Either that, or they can only act one type of role.  Baldwin behaves in exactly the same manner here as he does in 30 Rock, and ditto for Cattrall and Sex and the City.  In Cattrall’s case, that’s fine because it suits her role, but in Baldwin’s?  Yeesh.  His character is supposed to be a good soul who has one bad day and makes a bad decision, not a slimy corporate guy, and yet he reads as the latter.

In spite of the casting, the movie still could have been decent with a good script, which is why the first half of the movie is quite watchable.  Unfortunately, it takes a serious nose-dive in the second half of the movie from interesting exploration of human behavior to….a court room trial?  Held in a cemetery?  With a jury consisting of people from Jabez’s past and famous authors such as Hemingway?  What the fuck?!  The whole entire court room scene, which seems to last forever, is from so far out of left field and so painfully boring that it really, truly ruins the movie.  This is the classic example of how the ending can ruin an entire story.  Seriously, don’t start out being all “yay NYC capers! Plus, the devil!” and then slam us with a court room scene more boring than Law and Order.

That said, I still actually watched the whole movie.  Granted, I was playing Angry Birds on my iTouch most of the time, but the fact remains I did finish it.  So it is watchable, but it certainly is not high-quality viewing.  If you have time to kill and are a fan of any of the actors I mentioned or are a fan of selling soul to the devil stories, you won’t hate it, but there are definitely better films out there to kill time with.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: Netflix

Buy It It appears not to have been released on DVD. Interesting.

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  1. jpetroroy
    September 9, 2010 at 8:30 am

    I remember hearing about this when it was in production. Apparently it had lots of issues getting released and was original called ‘The Devil and Daniel Webster.’

    • September 9, 2010 at 3:06 pm

      Yeah, I guess it was based on a story by that name. Evidently *something* went wrong the production. There’s probably an interesting story or two behind that.

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