(1998) still stands as one of the most shocking and brilliant comedies ever made, so this 2009 sequel by writer-director Todd Solondz was almost guaranteed to be a disappointment. But I'd never have predicted something this mediocre. For his previous movie, Palindromes
(2004), Solondz audaciously divided his protagonist among eight different actors, a move that seems to have emboldened him to recast every character here, often to disorienting effect (Philip Seymour Hoffman, the obscene phone caller in Happiness
, is replaced by Michael K. Williams, best known as the armed bandit Omar from The Wire
). Rounding up the original players, however, would have made obvious how little Solondz has left to say about their characters; his singular comedy of delusion, selfishness, and petty cruelty has never before seemed so pat and nihilistic, and his theme of forgiveness is so baldly stated that it comes off as sentimental.
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In wresting his returning characters out of the clutches of the talent, Todd Solondz robs them of depth.