Riffing on Neale Donald Walsch’s best-seller, “Conversations With God,” John Hindman has concocted an earnest, not-quite-satire of New Age wisdom that evolves into a mediocre romantic drama.
Cranky Arlen Faber (Jeff Daniels) is the neurotic, reclusive author of a veritable library of inspirational literature based on his international best-seller “Me and God.” For 20 years, this self-styled God-guru been hiding behind the closed doors of his townhouse in Philadelphia, refusing to have his photograph taken, sign autographs, give interviews or do anything to the publicize his books, much to the chagrin of his agent. Then he wrenches his back so badly that he’s forced, literally, to crawl to the office of a nearby chiropractor, Elizabeth (Lauren Graham), who has recently opened her practice. She’s a perky single mother with a seven year-old son Alex. Inevitably and predictably, they develop a relationship, particularly when Arlen endearingly bonds with the child. At the same time, Arlen also reluctantly befriends recently-out-of-rehab Kris (Lou Taylor Pucci), who is coping not only with his alcoholic father’s death but also facing the bankruptcy of his beloved second-hand bookstore.
Genial Jeff Daniels makes misanthropic characters sympathetic, particularly if you recall “The Squid and the Whale,” and Lauren Graham (“Gilmore Girls”) rarely finds film roles equal to her talent, while Kat Dennings (“Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”) and Olivia Thirlby (“Juno”) add youthful support. But novice writer/director John Hindman squanders their collective expertise with this meandering melodrama about dispensing wisdom that’s totally devoid of any meaningful impact, despite delving into universal themes like the father/son relationship, overprotective mothers, alcoholism and, of course, the perennial search for the elusive Higher Power.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Answer Man” is a banal, feel-good 5 with some unnecessary profanity that feels definitively discordant in this psycho-babbling concept.