Nick Kroll is a funny, creative comedian who’s good at playing a variety of characters. So why is “Adult Beginners” such a disappointingly familiar, albeit congenial, comedy? Kroll, sharing story credit with screenwriters Jeff Cox and Liz Flahive, stars as Jake, an arrogant Manhattan entrepreneur who slinks back to his New Rochelle hometown defeated after screwing up a launch. He returns to the very house he grew up in, actually (for maximum “starting my life over” effect), where his semi-estranged sister, Justine (Rose Byrne), now lives with her cool husband, Danny (Bobby Cannavale), and their 3-year-old boy. While here, among the losers from high school who never moved away, Jake must find the balance between work and family and learn What’s Really Important.
Sound familiar? I swear I saw three indie films with this scenario at Sundance this year alone. Jake and Justine have old resentments between them that are hashed out over the course his residency here, and the brother-sister relationship is well-played by Kroll and Byrne (who’s stellar). But their main beef is another cliché: bitterness over one sibling having to care for a dying parent while the other was out seeking his fortune. Nothing is particularly wrong with the film (which was directed by Ross Katz), and its occasional laughs and generally agreeable tone pass the time pleasantly. I’d be surprised if you can remember any details of it a week later, though.
C+ (1 hr., 30 min.; )