Endearing ‘We Love You, Sally Carmichael!’ examines our obsessive love of pop culture

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Sebastian RochÉ and Christopher Gorham in “We Love You, Sally Carmichael!”

“WE LOVE YOU, SALLY CARMICHAEL!” — 3 stars — Paula Marshall, Elizabeth Tulloch, Jack McBrayer, Christopher Gorham, Sebastian Roché; PG (mild thematic elements and language); in general release

If a lousy book brings you genuine joy, is it still a lousy book? That’s the question that runs through the heart of “We Love You, Sally Carmichael!,” a new comedy about a writer who gets asked to critique his own dubious work.

Christopher Gorham plays Simon Hayes, a novelist leading a double life. As Simon, he’s just successful enough to be recognized by the local bookstore owner Tess (Elizabeth Tulloch). But as Sally Carmichael — his pen name — he’s the wildly successful author of the Siren series, a young adult romance about a young woman and her beloved merman.

Simon has worked hard to keep his identity secret — the world thinks Carmichael is a reclusive Mormon housewife — but the Siren series is about to be made into a film, and his publishers (led by “30 Rock’s” Jack McBrayer) have threatened a lawsuit if he refuses to meet with movie star Perry Quinn (Sebastian Roché), the vainglorious actor who is up for the merman role, despite being a decade older than the character in the book.

But Simon’s identity troubles extend beyond logistics. Protected by his Carmichael pen name, he is free to admit that the Siren novels are a formulaic hack job, and when Tess asks him to share his opinions in her tiny literary newspaper — unaware that he is the Siren author — Simon inadvertently makes a name for himself as the foremost critic of his own work.

The plot is further complicated by his blooming relationship with Tess, whose preteen daughter Andie (Andie Nibley) is a massive fan of the series.

At first glance, it would be easy to mistake “Sally Carmichael” as a simple jab at the young adult novel genre, and of course “Twilight” in particular. But even if…

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