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Adult Beginners

by DAN LYBARGER Special to the Democrat-Gazette | May 1, 2015 at 1:53 a.m.
Jake (Nick Kroll) is a manchild who becomes a nanny after his entrepreneurial dreams fall apart in Adult Beginners.

Adult Beginners plays like a quieter, less vulgar version of a Judd Apatow movie. Unfortunately, the noise and the filth are essential ingredients.

Director Ross Katz and star, co-writer and producer Nick Kroll of Comedy Central's Kroll Show are hard-pressed to come up with any worthy substitute for Apatow and his proteges' carnality and general outrageousness.

Adult Beginners

75 Cast: Nick Kroll, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale, Joel McHale, Caleb and Matthew Paddock, Caitlin FitzGerald, Paula Garces, Josh Charles, Jane Krakowski, Bobby Moynihan, Mike Birbiglia

Director: Ross Katz

Rating: R, for language and some drug use

Running time: 90 minutes

It probably doesn't help that the storyline by Kroll and screenwriters Jeff Cox and Liz Flahive is so routine. Kroll stars as Jake, an entrepreneur whose ambitious venture with a Google Glass-like device goes belly up before it even hits the factory. (Sort of how the real Google Glass ended up.)

Having lost all of his cash and a good deal of other people's money on the venture, Jake loses his apartment, his girlfriend and his sense of pride before he can snort his celebratory cocaine at the launch of the product.

The embarrassed Jake shows up meekly at his sister Justine's doorstep begging for a place to stay until he gets his career back on track. His timing is awful because Justine and her husband, Danny (Bobby Cannavale), are planning a move, but the two also need a baby sitter for their 3-year-old son Teddy (twins Caleb and Matthew Paddock).

Like Knocked Up and legions of films before and after it, Adult Beginners deals with a man who has only biologically reached maturity. In addition to the bodily functions that proliferate in such Apatow-produced offerings like Bridesmaids and The 40-Year-Old Virgin is a sense that the characters learn to act their ages.

Kroll's Jake is never that likable at either the beginning or the end of the film. Kroll is a capable performer, but he's not charismatic enough to make viewers care if Jake ever wises up. Frequently, Jake's attempts at growing up feel as if months are taking place in real time, including moments where one waits for laundry to dry.

Jake's not that great with the admittedly cute Teddy, and it's still mystifying why a fellow baby sitter (Paula Garces) wants to get freaky with him while the youngsters they're supposed to watch are glued to the TV. Having Jake take Teddy to a swimming class even though he himself can't swim is one of several missed comic opportunities.

Adult Beginners does have some outbursts of profanity and moments of bad taste where a successful gag might have emerged, but neither Katz nor the screenwriters seem to have the audacity to make these sequences reach their guilt-inducing potential.

Casting Rose Byrne, who appeared in Bridesmaids and the similarly raunchy Neighbors, is problematic because one begins to expect orgies of guilty delight. Sadly, those aren't forthcoming. There are a lot of other familiar faces in Adult Beginners, but none have much room to get the most out of the material.

At least Cox and Flahive give Justine and Danny hangups of their own so that Jake isn't the only misfit. These complications seem to have been added at the last minute. This causes the problems and the resolutions to seem phony.

Without a beating heart to go with the occasional scatalogical joke, poop is just poop.

MovieStyle on 05/01/2015

Print Headline: Adult Beginners


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