"This is it! This is the spot!" proclaims Zach Braff in the new film, "Wish I was here."
"What is it?" asks his son, played by young Pierce Agnon.
"This is the spot where I had one of the deepest, most sincere moments of my life. The last time I had an epiphany was right here."
"What's an emi-fany?" he asks.
"An epiphany is when you realize something you really needed to realize."
Unfortunately, there are no epiphanies to be had in "Wish I Was Here," unless you count the epiphany that this movie doesn't have anything interesting to say. More accurately, this movie has too much to say and absolutely no interesting way to say it. It is lumberingly earnest.
Actor/director Zach Braff waited ten years before he made a follow-up to his surprise indie hit "Garden State" but that apparently wasn't long enough because "Wish I Was Here" feels decidedly undercooked. It's full of big ideas -- the meaning of life, death, family, forgiveness - but they're either so cliched or underwritten that they have very little resonance.
Braff plays a 30-something out-of-work actor with two kids, a disappointed wife, a dysfunctional brother and an overbearing father. When his dad is diagnosed with a serious case of cancer, the family dynamics start unraveling.
Emotional crises, big and small, start cropping up everywhere with everyone, and Braff's character tries to head them off. He has serious talks with his brother, his wife, his kids, even his sometimes-rabbi.
Most importantly, his wife has a serious heart-to-heart with the grouchy, cancer-ridden dad. Granted, these talks are leavened with some humor but mostly they're in dead earnest.
The film is well-acted throughout, especially Mandy Patinkin's turn as the sick old man. But the movie ultimately starts feeling like an avalanche of rather obvious life lessons, one right after the other, as each of the emotional loose ends gets tied up far too neatly.
I wish "Wish I Was Here" was better but it's not.