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happythankyoumoreplease DVD Review

happythankyoumoreplease (2011) movie poster happythankyoumoreplease

Theatrical Release: March 4, 2011 / Running Time: 99 Minutes / Rating: R / Songs List

Writer/Director: Josh Radnor

Cast: Malin Akerman (Annie), Tony Hale (Sam #2), Zoe Kazan (Mary Catherine), Kate Mara (Mississippi), Josh Radnor (Sam Wexler), Peter Scanavino (Ira), Pablo Schreieber (Charlie), Michael Algieri (Rasheen), Richard Jenkins (Paul Gertmanian), Mary Ann Urbano (Social Worker), Sunah Bilsted (Receptionist), Laith Nakli (MTA Worker)

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There is little doubt as to who Josh Radnor appears to be modeling his career after. Like Zach Braff ("Scrubs"), Radnor became known as the star of a network sitcom with a moderate but passionate young fanbase ("How I Met Your Mother"). After several seasons of that and with several seasons still to go,
Radnor has made his own Garden State, writing, directing, and starring in the independent dramedy happythankyoumoreplease. Like Braff's auteurial debut, Radnor's film is semi-autobiographical and looks at the lives of twentysomethings adjusting to adulthood.

Despite those parallels, it is the work of a different goofy Jewish comedian that this film unexpectedly resembles in story: Adam Sandler's Big Daddy. Like that 1999 blockbuster, happythankyoumoreplease centers on a direction-seeking protagonist into whose life an orphan child enters. Radnor plays that protagonist, Sam Wexler, a short story writer who is struggling to get his first novel published. On a subway, the scruffy, suburb-raised New York starving artist sees a young boy of around eight years old separated from his guardian. Sam leaps to assistance, but the quiet black boy (appropriately distant Michael Algieri) won't accompany him to the police station, nor will he say anything. He tags along on Sam's important publisher meeting, disrupting a thoughtful rejection (by a brief but good Richard Jenkins). The boy eventually reveals his name to be Rasheen and, rather than being returned to his unsatisfying foster family, he claims the couch in Sam's bachelor pad.

Aspiring novelist Sam Wexler (Josh Radnor) finds unexpected company in Rasheen (Michael Algieri), an artistically gifted boy with no family of his own in "happythankyoumoreplease."

That is the most prominent of several stories told here. Another deals with Sam's alopecic best friend, Annie (Malin Akerman, covering a bald cap with head scarves), trying to get back on her feet romantically, an area where she's had bad luck. After reconnecting with her thoughtless ex, she is reluctant to give a playful, photograph-taking colleague (Tony Hale, "Arrested Development"'s Buster) the chance he craves.

The most superfluous subplot involves another young couple, Mary Catherine (Zoe Kazan) and Charlie (Pablo Schreiber), with friendly ties to Sam. Their long-term relationship is threatened by Charlie's plans to take a job in Los Angeles and Mary Catherine's unplanned pregnancy.

Finally, because everyone in this movie deserves love, Sam's eye is caught by Mississippi (Kate Mara, doing her best Julia Roberts impression), a waitress/cabaret singer whom he persuades into accepting a "three-night stand" at his place.

Though it doesn't ignore the flagrant irresponsibility and illegality of it, happythankyoumoreplease does work itself into a corner with Sam and Rasheen's makeshift arrangement. To that end, Rasheen is a completely willing abductee, damaged (he doesn't even know his birthday!) and an undiscovered artistic prodigy, to boot.

Sam's best friend Annie (Malin Akerman) is rendered hairless by alopecia, a condition she demystifies for friends in the one week the film dramatizes. The problems facing longterm couple Charlie (Pablo Schreiber) and Mary Catherine (Zoe Kazan) bear little resemblance to the rest of the film.

It is bold for Radnor to wear so many hats without having worn any of them before. The same was true of Braff, whose hunger to be the voice of his generation is shared by Radnor, one year older and several years slower. Radnor's lack of film and filmmaking credits render this a learning experience and an often bumpy one at that. He's a little shaky on all three fronts, but it is the script that's most likely to rub you the wrong way. It has several good ideas in it, but it thinks it's full of great ones and that every quirky exchange should warm your heart and tickle your funny bone.

There's more in the film than there needs to be. The material surrounding Radnor's character is clearly the heart and the focus, but it doesn't get enough time to play out fully, having to share the 90-some minutes with subplots determined to be viewed as more than subplots.
The Mary Catherine and Charlie parts add virtually nothing and don't blend comfortably with the rest of the film. They are a diversion from more interesting matters and a poor venue to take shots at Los Angeles (fairly) and Woody Allen (less so).

If the offbeat and overdramatic execution played things more coolly, the film would be spared of the unfortunate pretension and smugness that pervade it. Instead, it feels like a more sensitive and far less entertaining version of Big Daddy.

In spite of its faults, happythankyoumoreplease (whose title loses meaning by tacking a word onto a lesson Annie shares) makes for about as promising a debut for Radnor as Garden State was for Braff. And yet, Braff has thus far been unable to parlay that film, a fairly sizable late summer hit adored by critics, into anything significant. What hope is there for Radnor, whose movie got cold reviews and grossed just over $200,000 in the 8-week, 19-theater run it received more than a year after its Sundance debut? It now gets its second and best chance to be discovered, with Anchor Bay releasing it to DVD and Blu-ray this week.

happythankyoumoreplease (2011) DVD cover art -- click to buy DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: June 21, 2011
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $18.99 (Reduced from $29.98)
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($19.98 SRP, reduced from $34.98 SRP)
and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Though shot for cheap by a novice director, happythankyoumoreplease looks good on DVD. The disc's 2.40:1 transfer has a respectable digital look to it as it runs with the shaky handheld shots expected of such a proudly independent film. The picture could be clearer and sharper, but I'm guessing that wouldn't be true to its original design, which does a nice job of capturing New York City sights genuinely. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is also satisfactory. Placing as much prominence on licensed music as Braff, Radnor gets a score out of fourteen songs by New York folk singer/songwriter Jaymay. Other indie bands from all over the world are also tapped to heighten the film's drama and pathos.

Jaymay (singer-songwriter Jamie Seerman) plays some of an original song in "Happythankyoumoremusicplease." Rasheen (Michael Algieri) gets a talking to about violence in this deleted scene. Sam lends Annie a shoulder to lean upon in this friendly main menu shot.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The extras begin on the Set Up menu,
where one finds an audio commentary by director/writer/actor (mistakenly identified as a producer as well) Josh Radnor and producer Jesse Hara. Though he's participated in six "HIMYM" episode group commentaries, Radnor brings unique, understandable enthusiasm to this track, telling us all about his first time making a movie. He and longtime friend Hara bounce off one another nicely as they remember in detail the circumstances of their summer 2009 shoot and let us in on the experiences and decisions that shaped the movie. Their remarks run a wide gamut, touching on camera choice, lighting, color correction, acting styles, musical selections, influences, and the R-rated profanity. Though they're very upbeat on their work, I was able to appreciate the insight and candor they provided.

Three video supplements are found on the Special Features menu.

"Happythankyoumoremusicplease - Featuring Jaymay" (6:40) lets Radnor, Jaymay, and music supervisor Andy Gowan separately discuss their collaboration on the film's score, with Radnor sharing his thoughts on "great movie songs" and Jaymay playing a little. It's weird for the disc's only featurette to be about the music, but it's a good piece for those who like Jaymay's work.

A reel of Deleted Scenes runs 8 minutes and 55 seconds and supplies more of the film's more annoying aspects: the alopecia awareness party, Kazan and Schreiber bickering, and Akerman's self-aware whining. There's also a scene of Sam trying to pick up a girl at the party.

The extras conclude with happythankyoumoreplease's 2-minute original theatrical trailer, always an appropriate inclusion.

The disc opens with trailers for Meet Monica Velour, Beautiful Boy, Kill the Irishman, and Daydream Nation. These cannot be accessed by menu.

The main menu plays clips over a skyline while Jaymay's "Long Walk to Never" plays.

The standard Eco-Box keepcase is topped by a repetitive slipcover that adds gloss to the front title and photos.

Playing Mississippi, Kate Mara gets a chance to show off the singing voice she uses on the National Anthem on select home games of her family's football team, the New York Giants. Josh Radnor, TV's Ted Mosby, goes around New York City with a messenger bag, a touch the writer/director/star must have chosen.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Josh Radnor's happythankyoumoreplease has its heart in the right place, but it overreaches and frequently offends with awkward delivery of dialogue it thinks too highly of. The appealing aspects of the film get buried deeply in phony quirks and miscalculation, rendering the nice notes too few and far between to elicit a recommendation. Anchor Bay's DVD offers a high quality feature presentation and a solid handful of bonus features. Only those who can appreciate indie films that constantly remind you of their indie status are likely to enjoy this one.

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happythankyoumoreplease Songs List: Shout Out Louds - "My Friend and the Ink On His Fingers", Friends of the Jitney with Katrina Lenk, Nyles Lannon, & Chris Phillips - "Phosphorescent Green", The Brendan Hines - "Miss New York", Cloud Cult - "Please Remain Calm", The Generationals - "When They Fight, They Fight", Jaymay - "40 Hours Ago", Jaymay - "Only Die So Lonely", Jaymay - "Never Be Daunted", Jaymay - "Lullaby", Jaymay - "Have to Tell You", Jaymay - "Rock, Scissors, Paper", Jaymay - "All Souls", Blunt Mechanic - "Thrown Out at Third", Jaymay - "1 & !", Cloud Cult - "Chemicals Collide", The Go - "You Go Bangin' On (Remix)", Blind Pilot - "The Story I Heard", War on Drugs - "Arms Like Boulders", Kate Mara - "Sing Happy", Bear Lake - "Smile", Dr. Dog - "The World May Never Know", Throw Me the Statue - "Waving at the Shore", Jaymay - "Long Walk to Never"

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Reviewed June 22, 2011.



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