Stranger Than Fiction

Rated 3.0

Will Ferrell plays a dullard IRS auditor who one day hears a voice narrating his life. Then he falls for a woman he’s auditing (Maggie Gyllenhaal), and, with help from a literature professor (Dustin Hoffman), determines his narrator to be a famous author (Emma Thompson) who tends to kill off her protagonists. Uh oh. Yes, it’s the same comedian-gets-serious shtick that brought Jim Carrey to The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Stranger than Fiction wants philosophical kinship with those films. But it needs a reality check. Screenwriter Zach Helm hasn’t much of a story to tell, nor even a firm grasp of form, but veils these shortcomings with a dalliance in meta-narrative chic. Accordingly, director Marc Forster, who moved nimbly between the worlds of life and literature in Finding Neverland, has a clumsy go of that dance here. The movie’s unforgivable logical flaws and gummy platitudes don’t sink it, though, and that’s thanks to Ferrell’s fine and humane performance.