"Reach Me" feels like being in the hectic mind of an artist with little idea of what to write about.

It’s as if writer/director John Herzfeld had a bunch of random characters and half stories racing around in his head and he just started writing. To connect these half-baked tales, Herzfeld chose something rather curious: a motivational book they are all somehow affected by. This book is called “Reach Me.”

The book is inspiring people all around California, and no one knows who wrote it. The author, Teddy Raymond, prefers to seclude himself from the public and let his words speak for themselves.

 

If you’re hoping the movie, out now on Blu-ray, will explain why this book inspires so many people to follow their dreams, you will be sorely disappointed.

Anytime the book’s content is actually referenced, it inspires little more than an eye roll. There’s zero effort in making the book sound like anything more than a second-rate motivational money grabber. This, of course, leads to the conclusion that almost all of our main characters are not of the highest intellect.

Who these bumbling idiots are doesn’t matter because their stories are so half concocted. In a film that contains character arcs you can count on two hands (some of which make zero sense), it’s amazing it runs for only 92 minutes. It feels like a cramped suitcase your uncle is trying to get on a plane without compromise. It’s bulky, awkward and makes little sense to anyone but its owner.

What’s also surprising is the impressive cast filling out these roles, like Thomas Jane playing a murderous cop and Sylvester Stallone co-starring as the owner of a media empire whose a little too cutthroat for his own good. And then there’s a bunch of stories we’ve seen before: the bumbling, low-level criminals that want something better and the journalist trying to hold onto his dreams of being a successful writer and so forth.

Familiar faces fill almost every role, and it’s hard to understand what some of these actors saw in this material. No one gets more than 15 or 20 minutes of screen time, and the whole thing feels like it was created for the sole purpose of providing an excuse for critics to use the word “cheesy.”

“Reach Me” never figures it out like many of its paper-thin characters supposedly do. It’s juggling serious material while using a sitcom-like music composition. It’s got far too many characters and stories at odds and worst of all it’s about a motivational book that feels as false and lame as the film.

“Reach Me” may be poorly made in many ways, but it does sport a few great performances from Jane, Stallone, Tom Berenger and others. It also can’t be criticized for not trying. Its heart is certainly in the right place. Herzfeld should be commended for shooting for the moon here (which few filmmakers do), but the resulting movie simply documents the crash and burn nature of his ambitious film.

Perhaps “Reach Me” would have worked as a television series where its characters could have room to breathe, and Herzfeld could have more time to win his audience over.

The Blu-ray disc edition offers no special features.

DID YOU KNOW: “Reach Me” used Kickstarter.com to raise more than $250,000. It then withdrew its campaign and moved to Indiegogo.com citing the site’s more flexible capabilities. The film raised nearly $180,000 there.