A fatally miscalibrated lesson in letting go from a filmmaker whose career-making Field of Dreams walked some of the same father-son ground with infinitely more success, Phil Alden Robinson’s The Angriest Man in Brooklyn stars Robin Williams as an aggrieved family man who believes he has only 90 minutes to live. The silliness of the conceit is far from the biggest problem in a picture that has no clue what to do with the wealth of talent in front of the camera, making everyone from costar Mila Kunis to one-scene players James Earl Jones and Louis C.K. look like buffoons or blunderers. Those names may draw a flicker of attention on posters, but most of the cast will be grateful for the stealthiness of Lionsgate’s theatrical release.
Williams plays Henry Altmann, who enters the film as a garden-variety, fuming misanthrope. We’ll later understand that this anger stems from the loss of one of two beloved sons, a trauma that has estranged him from his remaining son (Hamish Linklater) and his wife (Melissa Leo). Boy, howdy, will we understand — sappy flashbacks underline what a loving dad Henry was — but first, there’s a death sentence to contend with. In consulting with Dr. Sharon Gill (Kunis) about headaches, Henry learns that he has a large, badly located brain aneurysm; Sharon, overstressed and put on the spot by a shouting patient who insists on knowing how long he has to live, gives him the absurd 90-minute figure. (Both actors are saddled with flat, pseudo-witty voiceovers in which they describe their characters’ states of mind in third person. Kunis’ is particularly grating.)
After Henry runs off on a jumbled attempt to make amends and see old friends before his brain goes pop, he’s chased by both his brother (Peter Dinklage) and Sharon, who realizes she needs to at least try to save his life. The various chases and Henry’s journey of self-discovery are ineptly plotted, with practically the whole second half of the film playing like an emotional epiphany that will never end. An unbearably treacly score by Mateo Messina furthers this impression; between that and numerous scenes embodying plausible buried-pain family dramas, the movie’s clear belief that it is an antic black comedy is hard to understand.