In Adult Beginners, Nick Kroll plays a tech entrepreneur whose product launch goes belly up, losing himself and his investors a lot of money. This forces him to move in with his sister (Rose Byrne) and her husband (Bobby Cannavale). She’s pregnant with child number two and her husband may be stooping a co-worker, but is otherwise a great guy … if one can look past the little lapse in monogamy.
This all sounds like fun, doesn’t it? For an extra fun plot element, Kroll has to resort to babysitting his nephew to earn his keep. This not only provides him with the opportunity to really see what priorities are most important in life (message!) but he also gets to fool around with the cute nanny (Paula Garces) of another kid from the park.
Are you excited now?
There’s also a Joel McHale cameo where he plays a bit of self-obsessed jerk … which is so out of typecasting for him (smell that sarcasm).
Any more excited yet?
Yeah, well … you can’t really blame me for falling into this trap. I didn’t look to see what this movie was about before I watched it. I just have a basic rule of watching pretty much anything with Rose Byrne in it, and I always enjoy Bobby Cannavale. Sadly, here they’re playing generic clichés and not too far from other roles I’ve seen them in so even their inclusion couldn’t do much to perk things up.
As for Kroll, he’s the star of the show. He’s played good supporting characters before and I’m a general fan of his comedy but partially due to the script and partially due to his droll delivery, his role here is not really all that likable. Even as he starts to become less selfish, it’s hard to tell if he’s doing it because he’s bored or if he’s actually learning something.
And really, all of these characters leave us wishing we could like them a little bit more, want to root for their success just a little bit more. However, this feels like a first time script crafted by someone who put far too many of their personal details into the plot but changed the names to disguise the source of their emotional trauma. It’s slightly surprising to see that none of those with writing credits (including Kroll himself) are first time writers.
The characters are supposed to follow an arc but it never feels like they’re working to become the people they eventually become. The film simply keeps moving forward and each person is slightly different when all is said and done, though only because they’re supposed to be and not because anyone took the time to really think about why they should be. The end result is a rather stagnant effort that wasn’t so unappealing that I took the effort to get off the couch and stop the screener I was watching but this felt more like background noise I’d put on while working on another project, cooking dinner, or surfing the internet.
You’re much better off going with something like Cedar Rapids, Your Sister’s Sister, or even last year’s The Skeleton Twins if you’re looking for characters dealing with a crisis of self. Adult Beginners only made me wish I had been watching one of those other movies (or maybe Beginners since the title seemed so obvious and it’s a far, far better film). There, at least I gave you some good prospects on other films you probably haven’t seen. So reading this wasn’t a complete waste, right? Right?
MPAA rating: R for language and some drug use
Running time: 90 minutes
Directed by: Ross Katz
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