Film Review: The Right Kind of Wrong

Overreliance on cheeky hijinks suggests desperation more than inspiration.

When it comes to screwball comedy, dozens of classic films have set the bar so high that newcomers by necessity must innovate to even compete. Intermittently cringe-worthy rom-com The Right Kind of Wrong gamely accepts the challenge, but overcompensates with left-field humor that repeatedly misconnects. The Canadian-pedigreed production may find broadest acceptance on less discriminating digital platforms, where it debuted prior to limited theatrical release.

Leo Palamino (Ryan Kwanten) is a struggling mid-30s writer living in a scenic mountain town, with one failed novel to his credit and no ideas for a second. Now a professional dishwasher at an Indian restaurant, he’s earned the utter derision of his self-entitled wife Julie (Kristen Hager), who’s so fed up with his imputed slights and shortcomings that she’s created the imaginatively titled blog “Why You Suck” to elaborate at length on his failures, just prior to walking out on their marriage.

That humiliation is bad enough, but when Julie ascends to Internet rock stardom after her blog takes off and becomes a pop-culture phenomenon, its popularity makes Leo the subject of frequent public ridicule and he just about scrapes bottom. He’s eventually revived by a chance encounter with Colette (Sara Canning), a local tour guide en route to her wedding to dream-guy Danny (Ryan McPartlin), an insufferable, über-preppy lawyer with all the estimable attributes that appear to be lacking in Leo’s personality. Utterly and inexplicably smitten—and undaunted by the minor technicality of her marriage—Leo resolves to pursue Colette, despite her bewilderment and then outright rejection of his unsubtle advances.

Beginning with crashing her wedding reception in the company of Colette’s estranged mother Tess (Catherine O’Hara), Leo proceeds to outright stalk his imagined paramour around town, showing up at inopportune moments and inappropriate places. Danny and his country-club buddies make various threats and attempt a few shakedowns to throw off Leo’s pursuit, but he’s determined to demonstrate to Colette that she’s made the wrong choice of mate and that he’s the ideal rebound candidate, aided by his conflicted but devoted book publisher (Will Sasso) and Colette’s feisty mom.

Bringing considerable feature and TV experience to bear on what’s essentially a small-scale indie production, director Jeremiah Chechik understandably achieves scant progress sorting out Megan Martin’s astoundingly mangled script, adapted from Tim Sandlin’s awkwardly titled novel Sex & Sunsets. Rife with rom-com clichés and jaw-droppingly idiotic situations, the story is so off-putting that its irrationality becomes almost secondary to its pointless attempts to prove that opposites really do attract—when they’re actually not as divergent as they first appear.

Attempts to enliven the plot with a couple of amusing, street-talking neighbor kids and a mysterious CGI “ghost bear” that’s intended to embody Leo’s indefatigably determined whimsy are only occasionally effective. Rationality rarely intervenes, however, perhaps because restraining orders on stalkers are hard to come by in Canada, even if your husband is an attorney.

Kwanten shambles through the production by proffering rumpled good looks and sheepish humor in place of a persuasive performance, infrequently clicking with Canning, whose initially acerbic turn repeatedly flips by 180 degrees in the late going. Chechik’s relentlessly cheery directorial style offers slim opportunity for contrast, however, essaying an almost cartoonish outlook that rarely abandons a distracting air of artificiality.

A final fateful misstep involves unintentionally titling the film in a manner that leaves it wide open for ridicule—a miscalculation that's presumably the wrong kind of wrong.

-The Hollywood Reporter