Release: Friday, April 24, 2015
Written by: Jeff Cox; Liz Flahive; Nick Kroll
Directed by: Ross Katz
Fans of FX’s The League, here’s a movie you’ve kind of been waiting for. Kind of. And maybe ‘waiting for’ is extreme. Regardless of my lack of enthusiasm towards star Nick Kroll, Adult Beginners finds a way to encourage a more well-rounded performance out of Ruxin by making him a nanny instead of a ninny.
Jake (Kroll) is responsible for the collapse of his upstart tech company when it immediately goes bankrupt, costing the jobs of many and subjecting him to their understandable rage. Feeling terrible, mostly for himself, he finds himself with no choice but to move in with his sister Justine (the always welcome Rose Byrne) who has settled down with her husband Danny (Bobby Cannavale) in the suburbs. In their house life is hectic, what with Danny working long hours in his blue collar day job, Justine being pregnant with their second child and their son Teddy (played by twins Caleb and Matthew Paddock) proving to be quite a handful.
Ruxin . . . er, I mean Jake ingratiates himself for several months with his sister who is every bit as unsure about what his next moves are going to be as he is. Unfortunately Danny and Jake don’t exactly hit it off from the get-go. In exchange for his temporary living arrangement, Justine asks if Jake wouldn’t mind babysitting their kid — it’d really help them out. Plus, you know . . . responsibility and stuff.
I suppose this is the part where I start accusing Adult Beginners of underachieving, and to be sure this family-oriented comedy is lightweight. I should be more specific. This isn’t family friendly material but rather a spotlight on relationships and how they evolve as people grow older and take on new, larger responsibilities. (You might be wondering what any of that has to do with the swimming pool on the poster. You see, neither Jake nor Justine know how to swim and yet Justine has enrolled her son in a beginner swim class. As it becomes clear to the instructor, the adults probably could benefit from a beginner class of their own.)
Adult Beginners plays out episodically rather than as a fluid film, with few plot threads enduring the full 90-minute runtime, save for the tension between Jake and his brother-in-law, the aquaphobia and Jake’s transitioning into the life of a stay-at-home dad. But it’s perfectly serviceable, even if bordering on inconsequential; a harmless comedy that’s more amusing than laugh-out-loud funny, one that speaks to the mundanities of every day life.
If nothing else it’s a showcase for the more sensitive side of Kroll who has spent much of his acting career portraying a somewhat insecure, neurotic man-child with a smoking hot wife who can’t quite satisfy him the way his obsession with fantasy football does. Here, even though he still exudes some of the foibles of that character, Kroll overcomes and matures in an organic way that neither feels manipulative nor unrealistic. Though one can’t help but feel he benefits greatly from being surrounded by a reliable, talented cast.
Recommendation: Adult Beginners gets by on the charm of its cast and a strong sense of the family unit. It’s nothing more than minor comedy but the cast and crew have more than enough chemistry to make the whole experience worthwhile sitting through, at least just once. And there’s something comforting about watching people older than you who are still trying to get their shit together.
Running Time: 92 mins.
Quoted: “You can basically take the last three years of my life and light them on fire.”
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