Movie Review: “Happily” married, until a stranger calls

“Happily” is a dark fantasy parable about marriage with a good cast, a little edge but not nearly enough wit or clever twists to come off.

It’s about that “perfect” couple that drives all their friends nuts and the idea that “these people are (secretly) as miserable as everybody else.”

Joel McHale and Kerry Bishé are that couple, the folks given to exchanging randy looks and secret gropes during dinner as restaurants, and locking themselves in their hosts’ bathroom for a little hook-up during dinner parties.

And that’s just in public. The fact that Janet and Tom have been married for 14 years, that they never let an inconsiderate moment pass between them without apologizing, and that their romance has lost none of its bloom drives friends like Karen (Natalie Zea) and Val (Paul Scheer) nuts.

“Everyone hates you!” “You’re f—–g MARTIANS!”

It’s why they’re uninvited to a couples weekend with their “group.” But even though it gives Tom and Janet pause, that’s all it does. They’re back to roses on the bed and candlelit coitus in a flash, convinced them that they’re not the “freaks” here.

When the strange man (Stephen Root, born to be strange) shows up at their door, assures them that they’re outliers, the product of a design flaw in the whole “law of diminishing returns” married sex life thing. They need to take these injections to become like everyone else, and they have no choice. But they do, and ends with them Googling “How to dispose of a dead body.”

They figure that has come back to haunt them when they’re re-invited to the couples weekend, that somebody coming to that weekend is behind all this and that maybe a “prank” got murderously out of hand.

Is it Janet and Val, their gay “friends” (Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Shannon Woodward), testy Patricia (Natalie Morales) and Donald (Jon Daly), or the chillingly engaged Richard (Breckin Meyer) and Gretel (Charlyne Yi)?

Writer-director BenDavid Grabinski sets us up for a darkly comic Agatha Christie mystery weekend, with intrigues and resentments, betrayals and peril, all packed into an AirBnB mansion with ten couples packed into it. He fails to deliver in almost every regard.

The cutting remarks rarely leave a mark, the mystery is unraveled with little care, and takes on the “Twilight Zone” air of “The Box,” which didn’t work either.

And nobody’s funny. Veteran TV funnyman McHale is given little funny to play or say, and that goes for everybody else. Only a query of the withdrawn, deadpan Gretel offers so much as a chuckle.

“What’s your deal?”

Extremely high.”

The always-deadpan Root may set the tone, but aside from “tone,” there’s nothing to “Happily.”

MPA Rating: R for sexual content, language throughout and brief violence

Cast: Kerry Bishé, Joel McHale, Natalie Zea, Natalie Morales, Breckin Meyer, Paul Scheer, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Shannon Woodward, Jon Daly, Charlyne Yi and Stephen Root

Credits: Scripted and directed by BenDavid Grabinski. A Saban Films release.

Running time: 1:36

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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