Contrary to popular belief that insists upon their demise, first-rate romantic comedies are still alive and well. Sadly, Jason Winer
’s perplexing farce “Ode to Joy
” — on the misadventures of a tedious male lead with a self-sabotaging biology that opposes happiness — makes it harder than ever to dispute the mourners of the supposedly vanished genre. Humorless to a paralyzing extent, this joyless effort (developed under the title “The Pursuit of Unhappiness”) illustrates how a bad-on-paper idea can turn into something cringe-inducing onscreen. It also reminds that pulling off a smart, intoxicating happily-ever-after tale with sexual chemistry, refined contemporary jokes and lovably quirky sidekicks (à la “The Big Sick
” or “Crazy Rich Asians
”) is much tougher than we often imagine.
Inspired by a true story featured on the “This American Life” podcast, the labored romp follows the Brooklyn librarian Charlie, played by a deliberately monotonous Martin Freeman
”) sans an emotional range.