Shortcut to Happiness (2003) – Film Review
Director: Alec Baldwin
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Dan Aykroyd
by Sarah Morgan
While some films burst onto the screen with a huge fanfare, others almost disappear without a trace. The latter is certainly true of Shortcut to Happiness which, through no fault of those involved in its making, was almost destined never to see the light of day. Alec Baldwin, who both directed and stars, seems to wish that had been the case.
When he signed onto the project it was entitled ‘The Devil and Daniel Webster’, and was meant to be a modern retelling of Stephen Vincent Benet’s classic short story, which had already been filmed in 1941.
However, when the production company behind it went bankrupt, the movie seemingly disappeared. It spent five years languishing on the shelf before being bought by another firm, who recut it and sent it out onto an unsuspecting world as Shortcut to Happiness.
“Entertaining little curiosity piece”
Baldwin now claims it bears no resemblance to the film he wanted to make and has his directing credit removed, but he shouldn’t be too down on it; it’s an entertaining little curiosity piece boosted by a fine cast. Starring alongside him are none other than Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Dan Aykroyd, Kim Cattrall and a pre-fame Amy Poehler.
Baldwin plays Jabez Stone, a struggling writer living in New York City. After publisher Daniel Webster turns down his manuscript, he’s approached by a beautiful and mysterious woman who claims she can get him whatever he wants – as long as he signs over his soul to her.
Of course he does so, claiming that all he needs is success – and it certainly arrives, although at the expense of those around him. He also doesn’t have respect – his books sell in their thousands, but are regarded as terrible.
Jabez wants out of his deal and Webster thinks he may be able to help. He also once fell foul of the mysterious female and agrees to represent the author in a celestial court, where literary greats will decide whether the deal should be declared null and void.
Shortcut to Happiness oddly looks and feels far older than it really is I can imagine if it had been made in the 1950s or 1960s, we’d declare it a minor classic, or at least a charming diversion, the kind of movie we all like to watch during a wet Sunday afternoon.
Perhaps in another 30 years we’ll all regard it as such – and perhaps by then Baldwin will have returned behind the camera because he appears to have a decent eye for directing.