Bad Therapy review – the film equivalent of the Duncan Principle

By Marc Miller
Published: May 17, 2020 (Last updated: February 7, 2024)
Bad Therapy review - the film equivalent of the Duncan Principle


Bad Therapy is a dark comedy that is the film equivalent of a soft dim light.

There are very few movie experiences where I stopped a film right in the middle. The last time might have been when you could still eject a movie out of the VCR. I wish I could have stopped Bad Therapy, but like a train wreck or high-speed chase, you can’t turn away. It’s painfully bad. Yes, therapy is, but this film is unnecessary even within its setting. I started to think I had taken part in the Duncan Principle, and I managed to make it out on the other side.

Alicia Silverstone stars as Susan Howard, a real estate agent that is constantly worried about her young teenage daughter Louise (Anna Pniowsky) and her second husband, Bob (Ballers‘ Rob Corddry). She is at the point in her life where she wants to be taken care of and not work as much. She’s the primary breadwinner and feels her husband lacks ambition. He has gotten too comfortable as a producer at the Nature Channel with a small income of 125,000 a year (must be nice). She seeks out a therapist, Judy Small (Corddry’s The Unicorn costar, Michaela Watkins), to help fix their issues and soon realizes how unorthodox her methods can be.

Bad Therapy‘s trailer boasts a tagline based on a true story, which makes it all that much more head-scratching why something couldn’t be salvaged out of a psychopath who is a therapist treating patients. The polite thing to say is that the script by Nancy Doyne, who adapted the film from her book Judy Small, juggles too many genres to have a coherent point of view. The film would have been better served going for a straight dark comedy and weeded out any romantic melodrama, slapstick comedy, or sticky-sweet family reconciliation drama.

There are a handful of odd situations, particularly Sara Shahi’s character, that is out of place and feel like they were expanded or added based on getting a named actor in the cast. For the most part, the main characters’ behaviors aren’t that bad to begin with, and they always abort before making a poor decision. Most of the film’s scenes are woefully underdeveloped and lack a driving force. Virtually all the settings are lazily put together, and the jokes miss their marks. The most exciting part of the film is Watkins’ Small, and it’s a shame they didn’t develop more time for her here until it was too late.

Director William Teitler, a producer of some noteworthy projects like the Jumanji movies, Polar Express, The Hurricane, and Empire Falls, makes his directorial debut. I wish I could give him a pass here. Ultimately, most of the issues come from the script, but the final product is his responsibility. His film is pointless, inane, and laugh-free despite the likable cast. It’s a dark comedy that is the film equivalent of soft dim light. It was one of the most painful moviegoing experiences of my life.

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