Most big action movies bore me. I don't know what walloping heroic romances like Mission: Impossible III, Superman Returns, Miami Vice, and Casino Royale could even potentially offer me. A more emotional James Bond?! As if (1) seeing 007 movies were unavoidable and so I must care whether James Bond's range is broader or narrower, (2) heroic romance were a suitable narrative genre for conveying emotion, and (3) I had no other source for representations of emotion.
I turn to smaller-scaled movies for something beyond what these super-sized video games are programmed for. Yet it's rare that I hate a blockbuster as much as I hated Stranger Than Fiction, or Little Miss Sunshine, which was a close number two as my least favorite movie of the year. But I hated Little Miss Sunshine only from the ice cream scene onwards, whereas I hated Stranger Than Fiction right from the start, when the voice-over narrator implies that the protagonist Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) leads a miserable life because he's an IRS auditor and thinks in terms of numbers. Much of what follows may seem like nitpicking, but when a script is this nit-witted there are only nits to be picked from it.
The high concept of the movie is that Harold's life is both real and a narrative being written by Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson), a great novelist who hasn't finished a book in a decade. Harold's constricted life starts to loosen up after he begins to hear Kay's narration (she speaks as she types). When Kay says/writes that her character Harold is about to die, the unnerved real-life Harold consults first a shrink and then the literature professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman) in desperation. Professor Hilbert tells him that the first thing is to determine whether his story is a comedy or a tragedy, i.e., whether he will live or die at the end of the story. It's highly possible these days that a literature professor wouldn't know that comedy and tragedy are genres of drama not prose fiction, but I don't think the movie is intended as satire of academe.
What this does tell you, however, is that screenwriter Zach Helm's "cleverness" far outruns his familiarity with his chosen subject matter. Despite Professor Hilbert's reverence for Kay Eiffel's output, what we hear of her latest book is clearly not the masterpiece Professor Hilbert claims it to be after reading the manuscript. Kay's narration made me wince even more than Woody Allen's misuse of the term "deconstruction" in Deconstructing Harry (1997) and the selections from the "great" books in that movie, which sounded more like premises for comic shorts than accomplished works of fiction on the order of Philip Roth's.