Devilish Shortcut

Shortcut to Happiness’ inoffensive, simple morals don’t need explicitly revealed. Adam Baldwin stars as a struggling writer seeking success and fame, gets both after selling his soul to the devil, then realizes the impact his upward momentum has on others. Simple, succinct.

For some reason then, Shortcut to Happiness ends on a 15-minute spiritual courtroom sequence to lay this out. Before, it’s competent and even mildly funny. Baldwin’s charms deliver a generic character, lifted by his performance. Jennifer Love Hewitt as a seductive Satan? A casting masterstroke.

Maybe not famously, Shortcut to Happiness underwent significant editing without director Alec Baldwin’s permission. Production funds ran out before completion. A new distributor took over and began recutting. Baldwin disowned his work; his name is no longer attached to the credits. Shortcut to Happiness’ blunders in editing include a number of wonky, weirdly constructed monologues over choppy footage. It’s unknown if those were changes made by the new owners though.

Shortcut to Happiness shows why unearned success is ultimately hollow and futile

While those chunky transitions mar the feeling of a cohesive work, nothing fixes the ending. It’s bizarre. Dan Aykroyd plays a recently deceased author now in the judge’s seat and Truman Capote (?) sits on the jury as Baldwin takes Satan to task for her deception. After some 80-minutes, Shortcut to Happiness retells itself, then layered with first year philosophy about why God lets people suffer in this existence – all stated by Hewitt. Who better to deliver Biblical tales?

It’s a criminal finish to a safe, soft, harmless comedy about a New Yorker chasing popularity. Shortcut to Happiness retools “A Christmas Carol,” ditching Christmas to reveal the same evidence of greed year round.

How Baldwin affords a decent New York apartment (by New York standards anyway) without being published isn’t clear, but no matter; that’s part of the fantasy. The want for more, to be a headliner, to mingle with the rich, to get the sexy partner drives people. National celebrity culture brings out the worst of cultish followings. Shortcut to Happiness shows why unearned success is ultimately hollow and futile, a better story in today’s influencer and Instagrammer-driven society than in 2003 when Shorcut to Happiness finally saw initial release (filming completed in 2001).

As a cinematic oddity – still the only thing Baldwin ever directed – there’s something in this marginal fable. It’s immature and never challenging, even feeble for an adult audience. It looks at how urges and jealousy propel people in their career. Personal joy becomes secondary to one-upping a rival. Shortcut to Happiness turns temptation into a character flaw. Then, spends 15 minutes explaining it.

Video

An obnoxious case of gate weave in the first reel (and less so after) makes the early portions of this difficult to watch. It’s nauseating. The print simply isn’t stable, shaking enough to make the wobble noticeable and create discomfort.

That aside, small specks of dirt appear on this transfer. No damage does though. This master looks slightly older because of tiny amounts of visible ringing and elevated grain structure. MVD resolves the source by way of their encode, avoiding artifacts.

Detail shows in close with passable sharpness overall. Some aerials of New York look fine if unremarkable. Clean contrast helps with depth, and black levels deliver pleasing shadows at no cost to shadow detail.

Shortcut to Happiness produces natural color, appearing untouched by any post-production tinkering (or anything more modern). Flesh tones look accurate and primaries push nice saturation. It’s attractive in an overall average presentation.

Audio

Separation in this PCM stereo track tracks minor movement around the city. Scenes outside pan traffic around, creating clean ambiance. Crowded locations come alive with a channel split.

Minor soundtrack cues reach careful highs. Shortcut to Happiness isn’t old enough to introduce any fidelity issues, and this track doesn’t introduce any.

Extras

Just the original trailer.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Shortcut to Happiness
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Adam Baldwin disowned this film, but Shortcut to Happiness isn’t a debacle, at least until an embarrassing ending talks down to the audience.

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