Jeff, Who Lives at Home

Is there anyone in Hollywood as likable as Jason Segel? The rising film star has made a niche for himself playing lovable losers and Jeff, Who Lives at Home is no exception. In another actor’s hands, Jeff might have been too doofy to root for, but Segel injects a sweetness to the character that makes you keep your fingers crossed that he, in the end, finds his destiny. The rest of the cast (including Susan Sarandon and Ed Helms who were last seen as lover and are mother and son here- ew) are also strong in their roles as regular people unwillingly being dragged out of their ruts by the events of one day.
Jeff (Jason Segel) spends his days hanging out in his mother’s basement. He receives a call that anyone else would write off as a wrong number, but Jeff is convinced it is a sign regarding his destiny. Forced to leave the house to run an errand for his mother (Susan Sarandon), he follows a series of what he thinks are clues which lead to him getting mugged, his brother (Ed Helms) totaling his new Porsche, and the two brothers trailing Helms’ possibly adulterous wife (Judy Greer), before Jeff eventually stumbles upon his Kevin related destiny.
Written and directed by Mumblecore kings Jay & Mark Duplas, some will most likely find it too slow, but I tend to like slice of life films. Jeff , brother Pat, and mother Sharon are real people. There is a sub-plot where Sharon receives flirtation messages at work. Watching the lonely widow receive the messages with a mixture of glee and paranoia, is very touching and her admirer’s surprising identity is an interesting move that satisfied me even though I saw it coming. While it doesn’t have the thrills per minute of an action movie, I found myself shaking in anticipation during the film’s climax.

The Five-Year Engagement

Caution Spoilers!
When Tom and Violet get engaged after only dating a year, some worry they are rushing into things, but a series of unexpected life changes delay the big day five years. When Violet (Emily Blunt) gets accepted to PHD program in another part of the country, Tom (Jason Segal) agrees to quit his job as a sous chef at a hot restaurant to help her follow her dream, however, Michigan is an odd fit for Tom. While Violet is the star student in her group and her contract extended, the best job Tom can find is in a sandwich shop and he slips deeper and deeper into depression. The two patiently await the perfect time for their wedding, but eventually learn that there’s never a perfect time for anything and sometimes you just have to pick a cookie and eat it, but more on that later.
One thing I like about Jason Segal’s writing is that there’s something refreshing untrained about it. His scripts are sprinkled with specifics that you know must have been inspired by moments of his life. He also is more than willing to “go there”, he’s never afraid to appear nude or perform a revealing sex scene. There are also a lot of familiar faces in his films. He clearly puts thought into who he wants to spend his time with when filming. I feel like more than the vast majority of actors, you get to know Jason Segal as a person when you watch his work.
Early in the movie, Hubby pointed out that all their troubles could have been easily been avoided. Their biggest problem is that Tom had to give up his culinary career so Violet could further her studies and continue on the road towards becoming a professor. Michigan is not know more its culinary scene but its cost of living is extremely low, so Hubby said Tom should have tried to start his own business, and then later in the movie, Tom does start his own business after he moves back to San Francisco and agrees to relocate the business to Michigan to be with Violet again. The whole movie could have been avoided if they had just thought of that of when they first moved! It makes the rest of the film a little tiresome being based on such a flimsy conflict.
In the end, the message seemed to be you can’t wait for that moment for when everything is perfect. This is highlighted by the relationship between Violet’s sister Suzie (Alison Brie) and Tom’s best friend Alex (Chris Pratt). The two hook-up at Tom and Violet’s engagement party and quickly marry when Suzie discovers she’s pregnant. The two repeatedly throw caution to the wind and build a relatively happy little family for themselves. Brie and Pratt are a lot of fun and hopefully in the next year or two they’ll be able to be the leads in romantic comedies. However, Brie’s British accent is a tad distractingly bad but hearing her and Blunt fight as Elmo and Cookie Monster is a classic sister moment.
While The Five-Year Engagement isn’t a classic it is a cute date night movie with a lot of familiar faces.

The Muppets

Like most people my age, I grew up with the Muppets. I think my love of pop culture owes a lot to repeated viewings of The Muppet Babies. Hearing about Jim Henson’s death is a childhood moment I remember to this day. I am also a huge fan of Jason Segel. So when I heard that he was writing the new muppet movie, I felt a mixture of excitement and nervousness. Turns out I had nothing to worry about. Segel took everything one loves about the Muppets and put it in modern times, complete with a who’s who of today’s comedy world.

The film follows Walter and Gary (Segel), a Muppet and a man who are brothers. The two travel with Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) to Los Angeles where they learn that the old Muppet Theater will soon belong to an oil tycoon who plans to destroy it. To raise the money to save the theater, they gather the Muppets, who have parted ways over years, to do a big reunion show. The Muppets have to remind an audience who has moved on in their absence who they are and the magic that they represent. Along the way they run into a lot of familiar faces, some playing themselves, others playing new wacky characters.

The first sign that this was going to be a classic Muppet movie was the song “Life’s a Happy Song”. This is an adorably sweet song and completely encapsulates the tenderness that we come to expect from the Muppets. While “Man or a Muppet” won Flight of the Concords member Bret McKenzie an Oscar for best song, I really thought “Life’s a Happy Song” was stronger. “Pictures in my Head” made me emotional as Kermit sings about how all he misses about his old friends. Although they are clearly made of felt and I know that they are controlled by puppeteers, I’ve seen the Muppets share so much together and it was sad to think such strong friendships had fallen to disrepair. “Me Party” was so Flight of the Concords, but a wonderful fit for Amy Adams’ almost patented brand of adorableness. The only musical misstep, in my opinion, is Chris Cooper rapping. While it’s kind of funny that he has back-up singers in his closet, just waiting for him to start rapping, it’s more than a little cringe worthy. During the telethon, the Muppets perform modern classics like “Smells Like Team Spirit” (which Courtney Love is now claiming is a rape of the original song, but whatever Courtney, Dave Grohl is in the film so he’s clearly ok with this) and Camilla and the gals show that Cee-lo’s “Fuck You” was written to be performed by chickens.

I really found this film to be a love letter to people my age. My generation defines themselves by what they find funny and in our lifetime, some amazing alternative comics have gone mainstream. The cast is filled with familiar faces from Jack Black to Zach Galifianakis to Donald Glover, it’s a pretty hip crew, and they all share a love of making people laugh and The Muppets. Maybe the two are somehow connected. But I felt like I was watching friends put on a show and they were winking at me after every in-joke.

One thing I find myself wondering when watching anything Muppet related is, am I supposed to like or hate Miss Piggy? She really is the only real female character in the Muppet universe, but she’s so flawed. She’s bossy, she has a temper, she’s completely obsessed and possessive about Kermit. However, in this film, she’s a little softer, more modern. She’s built a career for herself in the plus-sized fashion world and is unwilling to carry on any kind of relationship with Kermit unless he cares for her and, more importantly, allows himself to show it.

It warmed my heart to watch Jason Segel living at lifelong dream. He’s been an admitted Muppets fanatic for years and it’s a treat to watch him interact with Kermit and the gang, knowing how much it means to him. I heard he will not be involved in the squeal, which is a shame, but I will keep my fingers crossed that the next film has even half the heart of this one.

Favorite Quote:

Kermit the Frog: Guys, we can’t kidnap Jack Black. That’s illegal!
Fozzie Bear: What’s more illegal, Kermit: briefly inconveniencing Jack Black, or destroying the Muppets?
Kermit the Frog: Kidnapping Jack Black!