Shortcut to Happiness (2004)
Reviewed on 2009 March 24
[Note: this movie was released as Shortcut to Happiness, but it is also known as The Devil and Daniel Webster. ]
Odd and updated version of “The Devil and Daniel Webster”, with Jennifer Love Hewiit playing Old Scratch and classed up by Sir Anthony Hopkins as Webster.
Jabez Stone (Alec Baldwin) is a struggling writer in Manhattan, trying to both deal with the rejection of his works and be happy for his trendy and successful friends. One night when he loses it, he realizes he’d do anything for success. A mysterious woman in a red trench coat (which I now covet — the costumes in this thing were amazing) comes to his apartment, promising ten years of success if he’ll part with his soul. Things improve overnight for Stone — his books outpace Stephen King, he makes ridiculous amounts of money and women throw themselves at him like Mardi Gras beads — and yet he’s not happy. He realizes he wants out, and turns to Webster, the literary agent on the East Coast, for help. Daniel has dealt with this sort of thing a time or two.
I always wondered what critics meant when they called a film “uneven”, and I think I get it after this, because it’s the gold standard of mismatched styles. It was oh-so-hip, with sudden swoops into thoughtful introspection followed by “comedy”. Between the cooing Manhattanites and Kim Catrall as an agent who hands out benefits to pet writers I felt like I was watching “Satan and the City”. I also think Jennifer Love Hewitt was a poor choice to play the devil. I’m not saying she’s a bad actress; I’m just saying it’s kind of like the recent decision to cast Dwayne Johnson to be the Tooth Fairy. If you’re going to make an improbable choice like that I think it should be a straight comedy, and this was not.
Two chocolate morsels. Would have been so much better if it were drenched in a single coat of black humor, but still better than I anticipated.