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30 Apr 2015

Standard Stuff: Good Performances Can't Salvage the By-the-Numbers Script of 'Adult Beginners'

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Nick Kroll and Caleb/Matthew Paddock in Adult Beginners. Nick Kroll and Caleb/Matthew Paddock in Adult Beginners.

In Adult Beginners, Jake (Nick Kroll) loses all of his money on a get-rich tech scheme, and winds up moving in with his sister Justine (Rose Byrne) and her husband, Danny (Bobby Cannavale), where he takes a temporary gig as their son’s nanny. The trip home helps straighten out Jake as he gets a deeper appreciation of family—but not before he hits some speed bumps.

This is standard, by-the-numbers stuff made almost tolerable by Kroll, Byrne and Cannavale, who make the most of it. Cannavale is especially good as the happy-go-lucky brother-in-law who doesn’t mind Jake crashing at his place, because he gets somebody with whom to smoke pot. Byrne is funny as the pregnant mom who never gets to go out and has a few issues with her deadbeat brother. Kroll is OK as a guy having a mini-meltdown, although he seems more suited to broader comedy.

Blink, and you’ll miss Joel McHale in a small role as Jake’s coke-snorting buddy, and Bobby Moynihan of Saturday Night Live as a clothing-store clerk. The film is directed by Ross Katz, who captures some good performances with a script that leaves a lot to be desired.

Adult Beginners opens Friday, May 1, at the Cinémas Palme d’Or (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-779-0430. It’s also available via on demand and via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

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