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Originally published Thursday, July 21, 2011 at 1:10 PM

Movie review

New Jenna Fischer film is a flop

"A Little Help," a vehicle for Jenna Fischer of "The Office" fame, is played for laughs but unfortunately there aren't any. The film is playing at Seattle's Metro.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 1.5 stars

'A Little Help,' with Jenna Fischer, Chris O'Donnell, Rob Benedict, Daniel Yelsky, Kim Coates. Written and directed by Michael J. Weithorn. 108 minutes. Rated R for language, some sexual content and drug use. Several theaters.

quotes As a authentic and relatable story, A Little Help really overwhelmed me. It is far... Read more
quotes Harsh!! I just saw it today at lunch with my best friend and we really enjoyed it! I... Read more
quotes I totally agree with the comments posted here, and likewise disagree dramatically with... Read more

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It's not difficult to guess how "A Little Help" got made: Jenna Fischer, of TV's "The Office," probably wanted a chance to headline a movie, and the movie's financiers figured that Fischer's name would draw audiences. But it's much harder to guess what drew her to this material: a lackluster, weirdly paced and ultimately dull story of a woman in crisis — played for laughs, except there aren't any.

Fischer, a charming performer, reminds the viewer of Amy Adams during her good moments in "A Little Help." She's playing Laura Pehlke, a 35-year-old Long Islander who's bored with her job as a dental hygienist; dismayed to find her 12-year-old son (Daniel Yelsky) increasingly remote; and frustrated by her stale marriage to Bob (Chris O'Donnell), who appears to be cheating on her. It's quickly established that we're in suburban-misery territory, and then, just like that, Bob drops dead. Laura's life goes into a tailspin, but writer/director Michael J. Weithorn doesn't take the time to make us care, or to figure out whether he's making a black comedy or a character drama.

As we watch Laura screaming at her newly fatherless son, or announcing her desire to kill the neighbor's dog, or elaborately slurping an enormous Big Gulp at a meeting with her lawyer, we quickly lose patience with her, and wonder whether Weithorn intended her to be a lovable screw-up rather than a clueless harpy. (It's not entirely Fischer's fault; Laura's certainly written as the latter.) As Laura loses her way, the movie does too, and by its end you wonder if Fischer's joined a support group for Sitcom Stars Who Make Bad Movie Choices. Better luck next time.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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