With the self-consciously clever and sometimes achingly romantic “Happythankyoumoreplease,” TV star Josh Radnor (“How I Met Your Mother”) has concocted a big screen starring vehicle for himself that calls to mind both his hopelessly romantic TV persona, and an earlier sensitive romance by an earlier version of Radnor. “Happythankyoumoreplease” is less mopey and downbeat than TV star Zach Braff’s “Garden State.” But it succeeds in many of the same sweet ways and is similar enough to warrant labeling Radnor “Zach Braff: The Next Generation.”
Radnor, as writer-director and star, follows three young New York couples — two in the making, one facing that make-or-break decision that many 20somethings wrestle with, the geography of career vs. love.
Radnor plays Sam, an aspiring writer with a mild streak of self-destructiveness. All the “voice of our generation” pep talks from his pal Annie (Malin Akerman) can’t keep him from finding a way to blow a meeting with the possible publisher (Richard Jenkins) of his novel, “The Other Great Thing About Vinyl.” At least the way Sam sabotages this — rescuing a kid abandoned on the subway — is original. Oddly and unrealistically, Sam keeps the kid (Michael Algieri) around. No taking him to the cops, no trip to Social Services, because they’re the ones letting the boy down.
“Come on, we’ll get all ‘Kramer vs. Kramer,” he tells the kid.
Sam then parks him at home and goes out on dates with this barmaid (Kate Mara) who catches his eye.
Meanwhile, Annie is struggling with self-image issues. She suffers from alopecia areata, which caused her hair to fall out. She copes by wearing attention-grabbing head wraps and falling back into the sack with her dirt-bag ex-boyfriend. That vaguely creepy dweeb (Tony Hale) at work who tries to flirt with her? Not happening.
Then there’s Sam’s “cousin,” Mary Catherine (Zoe Kazan) whose live-in boyfriend (Pablo Schreiber) is ready to take his shot at Los Angeles. But she’s not ready to leave, and not certain whether or not to give up on him. He tries to reassure her.
“You don’t need to know everything in advance.”
Once you get past the naive take-in-an-orphan plot device, “Happythankyoumoreplease” ticks over like a finely tuned romantic comedy engine, clipping along on clever situations and witty banter. Sam’s come-on to the barmaid nicknamed “Mississippi” (Mara) is quick and cute.
“Sam, I am not going to sleep with you.
“Oh come on, you can do anything you set your mind to.”
Akerman, hairless and dressing down, can’t hide her stunning good looks beneath a head-wrap, so her susceptibility to the pleas of her not-in-her-league co-worker ring false. Until, that is, you hear his spiel, which is right up there with “You had me at hello.” Very romantic.
It’s a movie of wit and cliches, precious situations and warm, wise observations — very much a mixed bag. But “Happythankyoumoreplease,” opening Friday at The Enzian, shows great promise in Radnor as a writer and director. Let’s hope “The New Zach Braff” learns from the original Zach Braff to strike while the iron is hot and not dither away his potential waiting for that perfect “next project” to come along. For filmmakers there is but one life lesson — you don’t get better by sitting around waiting.
Cast: Josh Radnor, Malin Akerman, Kate Mara, Zoe Kazan, Tony Hale
Director: Josh Radnor
Running time: 1:38
Rating: R for language.