Jeff, Who Lives at Home (Paramount Vantage, R)

 

film jeff-who-lives_75This gives the filmmakers carte blanche on whatever type of contrivance they see fit to wrap up the film when its scant 83 minutes are up.

 

 

Due to his success with The Muppets and Forgetting Sarah Marshall and How I Met Your Mother, it’s getting easy to forget Jason Segel’s roots as a layabout stoner in the classic 1999 TV series Freaks & Geeks. In this way, it’s refreshing to see him play a layabout stoner again here in the new film from Jay and Mark Duplass, Jeff, Who Lives at Home, though Segel’s not just playing another version of Nick Andopolis. Here, his Jeff is defined less by his recreational smoking and more by his tendency to look toward fate for answers, informed mostly by an ill-advised obsession with the M. Night Shyamalan film Signs—you’ve met the type. The slight plot of Jeff, Who Lives at Home comes when Jeff’s mom Sharon (Susan Sarandon) requests he leave his hobbit hole and go out into the big, scary world to buy some wood glue. Since Jeff is high and fate-obsessed and maybe a little stupid, this becomes much more of an adventure than it really needed to be.

Of course, this is compounded by the fact that while out, Jeff runs into his poopheaded brother Pat (Ed Helms), who has just bought a Porsche and is quickly suspecting that his wife Linda (Judy Greer) is cheating on him. Given that Jeff didn’t intend to run into Pat nor did they intend to intentionally spy on Linda (at first, at least), Jeff’s obsession with fate seems to hold some water. Perhaps, though, you can see from a mile away that this gives the filmmakers carte blanche on whatever type of contrivance they see fit to wrap up the film when its scant 83 minutes are up.

While Jeff, Who Lives at Home goes down agreeably enough and is pretty funny some of the time, I can’t help but wonder if it’s a little too earnest about the fate thing to appeal to the audience who stars like Ed Helms and Jason Segel would otherwise bring. Of course, if the film were a little stronger that would be one thing, but Jeff is much more functional than memorable. The Duplass brothers made much better use of their talent the last time out, with Marisa Tomei, John C. Reilly, and Jonah Hill in 2010’s Cyrus. Even so, Jeff feels like the type of movie that would be fun to watch for the first time on a lark on cable; it’s just that you might feel cheated if you go and drop $10 a ticket on it. | Pete Timmermann

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