Have you ever been in a situation
where your entire life has completely crashed?
What do you do? Where do you
go? How do you go about recovering?
Jake (Nick Kroll) is a
thirty-something entrepreneur who has spent the last 3 years preparing to launch
a start-up company. On the eve of
the big launch, at the celebration party, everything falls down like a house of
cards. All his friends (who invested
with him) now hate him. His
girlfriend leaves him. He’s beyond
completely broke; he’s incurred tremendous debt which he cannot begin to
repay. And now he can’t pay his
rent, either. Family?
His Mom is dead, his Dad has moved to Florida and re-married some
mindless bimbo. All he really has is
his sister Justine (Rose Byrne), living with her husband Danny (Bobby Cannavale)
and their 3-year-old son, Teddy, in the old family homestead.
Literally having no other options, Jake knocks on the door of his
sister’s house, suitcase in hand, asking if he can stay there for a while.
At first Justine is non-plussed,
because apparently she and Jake haven’t even spoken to each other in a while,
much less visited. Yeah, they’ve
both been busy, but they don’t seem to have been all that close, either.
Nobody is sure what to do now. But
Danny suggests that Jake stay with them in exchange for being Teddy’s
caretaker. It would save them the
money to pay for a sitter or a Nanny. He
could be the “Manny.”
No, it’s not a premise for a
predictably dumb comedy about a previously-oblivious guy being introduced to the
care and feeding of a small child. Though
Jake struggles with it more than he figured he would, and calls Justine at work
about “emergencies” like he can’t figure out how to open the stroller, he
slowly begins to adapt.
But as “down in the dumps” as
Jake is, it turns out that Justine and Danny don’t exactly have everything in
their lives figured out, either. Justine
finds that she is pregnant with her second child, and between wanting to spend
time with her son and prenatal visits to the doctor, she really doesn’t feel
she has time to be the gung-ho teacher that her principal would like for her to
be. Danny, supposedly a contractor
so successful that he’s showing off the house he’s building to Justine so
they can think about buying it, is actually not as prosperous as he pretends to
be. For that matter, he’s really
not the dedicated husband he pretends to be, either, and when Jake discovers
this, he’s really caught in the middle about divulging this explosive
information to his oblivious sister.
No, it really doesn’t seem like
anybody’s having very much fun here, and that’s the primary difficulty with
the movie. For a guy who’s
supposed to be about comedy, Kroll, a stand-up comedian who helped write the
screenplay, this script is remarkably unfunny.
It’s really more about Jake developing into a more well-rounded family
guy, albeit through his sister. It’s
rare that a movie focuses so much on adult sibling relationships, so in that
aspect it’s unusual, but it fails to soar.
Not even Cannavale’s screen presence can save this one from the double
dread: mediocrity and lack of target audience.
Questions for Discussion:
If you suddenly found yourself completely destitute, where would
Would you be willing to take in a family member who appears on
your doorstep and asks to stay? Are
there family members you would exclude?
How important are your relationships with your adult siblings?
How important would you like for them to be?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Supply Pastor, First
Presbyterian Church, Kaufman, Texas