Review: “Humor Me”, A Familiar But Endearing Father-Son Comedy

Sam Hoffman’s feature debut Humor Me is a gently funny and endearing comedy featuring Jemaine Clement as Nate, the struggling playwright who is forced to move into his father’s (Bob, played by Elliott Gould) retirement community after his wife and producer both leave him when he is unable to finish writing his second play. If the movie feels familiar, it’s because it doesn’t stray very far from a lot of tried and true tropes: a strained father-son relationship, a more-successful and well-liked brother (played by Erich Bergen), a manic-pixie dream girl (played by Ingrid Michaelson), an intellectual and/or creative doing menial and/or annoying tasks to prove to himself and others that he can finish things. Even though the story is so familiar, there isn’t much added nuance to set the story or characters apart from other movies that follow a similar formula.

That being said, the performances in Humor Me are what make the characters and their stories endearing for viewers who feel too familiar with the premise. Previously, I was primarily familiar with Jemaine Clement’s work with Flight of the Conchords (and yes, he also voiced the crab in Moana) so it was nice to see him play Nate as a more grounded character that you find yourself liking and sympathizing with and rooting for. Elliott Gould really hams up the dorky dad using his dorky jokes to cope. While I was actually surprised by how little the father-son dynamic featured in this movie, given that it seems to be the emotional core, the performances by Clement and Gould were great and I loved their scenes together. Priscilla Lopez as Bob’s girlfriend, Connie, was also a standout as a role that wasn’t given a lot to work with but still managed to bring a lot of heart to the character and the story. 
The writing was a bit weak for a lot of the other character profiles and interactions, which was ultimately super disappointing for me. It got to the point where I felt some scenes and characters entirely could have been omitted. I enjoyed the short bits where a few of Bob’s jokes, featuring a protagonist named Zimmerman, would get played out in black and white with Bob narrating, but as a device in the movie, these interrupted the flow of the story in a way that wasn’t justified to show us how Bob relies on these jokes.
Humor Me still managed to get me to smile and laugh and feel for the characters, despite being thin and maybe too-familiar. It’s still a joy to watch the actors bring so much heart to their characters and to the story, and to get a chuckle from some of the jokes. 

Rating: 2.5 out of 5