Jeff, Who Lives At Home (7/3/12)

Jeff, Who Lives At HomeMovie One Hundred Fifty Four

Jeff, Who Lives At Home is the story of a man who is looking for signs of what his life was destined for.

The opening scene has Jeff (Jason Segel), a seemingly ambitionless thirty year old living at home, talking into a tape recorder detailing the movie Signs and how he really thinks everyone has signs in their life pointing them to their destiny. Jeff answers a (seemingly) wrong number from a man asking for “Kevin” and Jeff takes this as a sign that he needs to find Kevin. His mother, Sharon (Susan Sarandon), calls from work and tells Jeff the one thing she wants for her birthday is for him to fix a slat on the pantry door. Jeff ventures out into the world to help his mom but his real goal is to find Kevin. He runs into his older brother, Pat (Ed Helms), a seemingly successful married man, whose life is actually in ruin and Jeff follows his signs to his real destiny.

I really want to praise Jeff, Who Lives at Home because it is a film with so much heart but unfortunately the entire film I was so incredibly distracted by the camerawork. If you read my review of Hunger Games, you may recall that I find excessive use of shakycam to be totally superfluous and I can’t stand it. Unfortunately, for seemingly no reason at all, Jeff, Who Lives at Home is shot entirely in this fashion, which may not be distracting on its own if it wasn’t coupled with zooming every 5-10 seconds. Literally that often, I wish I was being hyperbolic. Because of this I couldn’t give my full attention to liking the characters and their personal motives for their lives.

The characters here are actually quite well-written and I think we all know people like Jeff, people that we may look down but have more heart than anyone around them. Jason Segel plays this role perfectly and I was actually reminded a lot of his role as Nick in TV’s Freaks and Geeks. I also adore Judy Greer, who plays Pat’s wife fed up at Pat’s insistence that buying himself a Porsche is more important than buying a house.

Commonly categorized as “mumblecore” Jeff, Who Lives at Home seems like the Duplass brothers wanted to branch out and have something larger but then held back. The story is there, the story works really well, actually. Other than my abhorrence of the way the film was shot, I have few complaints looking back on Jeff, Who Lives at Home and I would still recommend it.

I give it 3 ketchup streams out of 5.

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The Muppets (6/24/12)

The MuppetsMovie One Hundred Forty Seven

In The Muppets, an evil oil baron wants to destroy the Muppet Studios and the Muppet gang get help from their greatest fan.

As kids, Walter (voiced by Peter Linz) and his brother, Gary (Jason Segel), were huge Muppet fans. As grown-ups, Gary and his girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams), travel to Los Angeles for their anniversary and Walter comes along so they can finally visit the Muppet Studio. Upon arriving and finding the studio all but abandoned and forgotten, Walter overhears Tex Richman’s (Chris Cooper) plan to buy and demolish the studio to drill for oil. Walter seeks out Kermit the Frog and together, they must reunite the whole Muppet gang to put on a benefit show to win the studio back.

I think one would be hard pressed to find someone that doesn’t know the Muppets and one of the key aspects of The Muppets is that they are past their prime and are but a memory for most people. Their more recent movies have been decent but mostly forgettable and with this film, the unique brand of humor and wonder are back. Segel, who also co-wrote the film clearly loves the source material and stays true to the characters we know and love.

Possibly the biggest surprise for The Muppets is the soundtrack. While I suppose it could be considered a musical I’m not sure I would fully agree. There are plenty of songs but they don’t seem out of place, with the exception of Tex Richman rapping, which is just embarrassing. Bret McKenzie, best known for his work in Flight of the Conchords, has the perfect style and sense of humor for The Muppets. There are several songs that you may find yourself whistling or humming days later.

The best praise I can give The Muppets is that it is both refreshing and nostalgic. It doesn’t rely on knowing anything about the characters, but familiarity is certainly a plus. The humor is appropriate for nearly all ages but is not what I would consider childish. Few films can make you laugh and make you feel good while also tying to a piece of childhood memories, but The Muppets does that for me.

I give it 5 mehna mehnas  out of 5.

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