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ADULT BEGINNERS (review)

adult_beginnersADULT BEGINNERS

Written by Jeff Cox & Liz Flahive / Directed by Ross Katz / Starring Nick Kroll, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale

Jake: My entire life imploded in itself.

Raise your hands if you’re familiar with this scenario. Take a comedian, with a moderately successful TV show on a little watched cable network, who wants to expand his fan base and hit the big time with a starring role in a feature film. He co-writes a script about a ne’er-do-well brother who ultimately finds inner strength and redemption by moving in with his no nonsense, yet also somewhat damaged sister. Throw in some funny sight gags, a scene or two that will highlight your dramatic mettle and what do you get? The tired and troubled ADULT BEGINNERS.

My initial reaction to seeing Nick Kroll on screen is that his is a face made for comedy. He looks an awful lot like a younger Jon Lovitz. After his character Jake loses everything he owns due to a bad investment (a better version of Google Glass), he is forced to leave his extravagant lifestyle in Manhattan and move back to his family home in the suburbs where his pregnant sister, Justine (Rose Byrne), now lives with her husband Danny (Bobby Cannavale) and their 3-year-old son. Ignoring the fact that Jake is relatively clueless about everything in life and completely self-absorbed, Justine and Danny allow him to stay with them as long as he can help babysit their child. After a very funny scene where Jake can’t figure out how to open a stroller and subsequently takes his nephew to the park in a piece of luggage instead, we now enter the land of cinematic déjà vu.

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Everything about ADULT BEGINNERS has been done and seen before and in significantly better movies. Want to see a movie about a screw-up brother and his sister? Watch YOU CAN COUNT ON ME or even GONE GIRL for more depth. The fingerprints of the Executive Producers, Mark and Jay Duplass, are all over this movie. A charming scene of Jake and Danny bonding and exhaling the smoke from a joint they are sharing into a fan is reminiscent of the humour in Duplass’s THE ONE I LOVE, THE SKELETON TWINS (a much better brother/sister movie) or in my latest television obsession, made for HBO, Togetherness. Furthermore, is there a movie where Joel McHale isn’t being snarky, Jane Krakowski isn’t a bitch or Bobby Moynihan not a loser?

However, this movie redeems itself every time Cannavale and Byrne are on screen (Byrne to a slightly lesser effect due to an underdeveloped role). Their performances are effortless and captivating; both shine in their comedic and dramatic scenes, especially when they are opposite the vacuous Nick Kroll. Not only are they both the saving grace in ADULT BEGINNERS, I have finally forgiven them for starring together in the travesty unleashed last year, the musical remake of ANNIE.

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Ultimately, the failure of ADULT BEGINNERS lies directly in the hands of Kroll. I am tired of being subjected to movies from sketch comedians in starring roles. Maybe Kroll should have studied the careers of Bill Hader and Will Forte. Prove your dramatic chops in supporting roles (THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY and NEBRASKA respectively) before you foist your leading role creds on an unsuspecting audience.

2 sheep

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