A LITTLE HELP Cue “sad trombone” noise.

THE GOOD THINGS in A Little Help, in sum, don't outweigh the bad, although it's not due to The Office's Jenna Fischer, who turns in a performance that wrings a believable, fleshed-out character from writer/director Michael J. Weithorn's squishy script. Fischer plays Laura, a dental hygienist who sneaks cigarettes and cracks open cans of Bud when she thinks her husband and son aren't looking. Meanwhile, hubbie Bob (Chris O'Donnell, mining the expected levels of douchebaggery) works long hours and is possibly cheating on her, while 12-year-old Dennis (Daniel Yelsky) is ill mannered and verbally abusive. The rest of Laura's family is no picnic either: mother Joan (Lesley Ann Warren) is a domineering harpy, father Warren (Ron Leibman) is bumbling toward senility, and sister Kathy (Brooke Smith) is a bitchy, pampered Long Island housewife who could very well be the most unpleasant person in the world.

The title seems to imply that Laura is in dire need of assistance, as she's barely able to keep herself afloat without everyone in her life walking all over her. But the film's moral is that poor Laura needs to learn how to help herself, so we watch her make bad decision after bad decision, and then watch each member of her family (except, notably, her father) berate her, until A Little Help starts to feel like you're trapped in the middle of the worst kind of family argument—less a movie than 100 minutes of people screeching at each other as Jakob Dylan croons sensitively on the soundtrack.

It's too bad, because Fischer is better than this material; she makes the incredibly flawed, possibly stupid Laura almost sympathetic. Fischer doesn't succumb to either the romantic-comedy adorableness or blubbering housewife stereotypes that the script seems to alternately dictate. But everything else in the movie is a caricature of a caricature, and good GOD, there is a lot of Jakob Dylan.