Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr “Life is filled with heartbreak and assholes.” Delivered by Cloris Leachman in voiceover, that cynical line should serve as a thesis statement for This Is Happening. Now amazingly in the eighth decade of her career, Leachman plays Estelle, an increasingly enfeebled yet cantankerous old woman whose son (Judd Nelson) pawns her off on his two reluctant children for the nursing home talk. Estelle’s adult grandkids, Philip (James Wolk) and Megan (Mickey Sumner), don’t have much of a relationship with her. They even call her by her first name. Sure, everyone seems a little bummed—Philip got screwed out of his job, all Megan has going for her is copious amounts of pot and Estelle still talks to her taxidermied lap dog—and everyone acts like a jerk at some point. But the gravity of Estelle’s “heartbreak and assholes” declaration, handed down from a character who is only occasionally onscreen, never hits home. At its core, This Is Happening takes a fractured family and throws them back together, hoping something either funny or moving will inherently take place. We’ve seen estranged siblings coming back together in a lot of indie comedies lately, whether it was Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig in the effective The Skeleton Twins or Nick Kroll and Rose Byrne in misfire Adult Beginners. Despite the odd decision to bookend the film with Estelle’s voiceovers, Philip and Megan are the key players here. At their father’s behest, Megan drags Philip from his demanding girlfriend (Emily Tremaine) and to grandmother’s house they go. The main conflict is set into motion when Megan tricks her brother into stopping so she can score five pounds of weed in a parking lot. When his rental car won’t start after the deal, the pair must be picked up by the very woman whom they intend to put away in a home. Estelle’s a tough cookie, dropping f-bombs and being generally as salty as Betty White is sweet. But she’s prone to weak spells, and while Philip heads out to pick up her prescription, Megan takes the chance to get her grandmamma stoned. From there, everything seems to have increasingly criminal repercussions, even though it’s all relatively benign. The second half of the film is mostly a vanilla road trip comedy as the uptight Philip and the loose cannon Megan begin to bond as they track down their runaway granny. You really can’t knock This Is Happening too hard. The project saw the light of day thanks to money raised through crowdfunding, and this is fledgling director Ryan Jaffe’s first film. Still, This Is Happening has the vibe of the Little Engine That Couldn’t Quite. Despite some interaction with the cops and a few fainting spells on Estelle’s part, the stakes simply never seem that high. In the distant rearview, there’s a family death that has left something of a scar on everyone, but that’s never fleshed out enough for the metaphoric ending to work. With perhaps the exception of the hammy Wolk as Philip, the acting is competent enough given a weak script, but the blood-relation dynamics only feel skin deep. The comedy is nearly nonexistent, however, unless you find snoring-based jokes like “Isn’t there a law against grizzly bears renting hotel rooms?” amusing. Nearing her 90th birthday, Leachman still clearly has the vigor to carry a supporting role, even if her character is simply a woman who is cranky (until she’s not). Nelson barely appears, and notable character actor René Auberjonois is equally underused. This is the type of movie that barely made it to theaters at all, and as eventual Netflix fodder you could certainly do worse than this harmless little film. But a stale script and sluggish pace makes This Is Happening a forgettable occurrence.