By Eleanor Ringel Cater
“Jeff Who Lives at Home” is the sort of little movie you expect to grow on you.
Instead, it grows away from you, losing its grip in a mildly ingratiating manner.
Nonetheless, it does lose its grip. And its audience.
When it was over my friend and I turned to each other and said, almost simultaneously, “Well… sweet.”
Only, we said it to each other in that reassuring way that meant neither one of us hated it or felt we’d wasted part of an afternoon (at 83 minutes, “Jeff” doesn’t have the heft to waste a whole afternoon).
Jason Segel plays Jeff and he does indeed live at home — though what that has to do with anything is never answered. However, since Jeff is a physically able man of about 30, his inability to strike out on his own could be read as a character trait.
That is, Jeff has no direction in life, beyond getting stoned.
Until he gets a phone call asking for “Kevin.” He takes it as a sign (there’s an exceedingly unfunny running joke about his obsession with the abysmal Mel Gibson movie “Signs.”)
Desperately seeking Kevin leads Jeff out of the house and to several dead ends. It also leads him to his brother, Pat (Ed Helms, tamped down, alas) who is having marital troubles.
And no wonder. His idea of making his wife (Judy Greer, “The Descendants”) happy is buying her the silver Porsche he lusts for.
In a completely irrevelant sub-plot, the brothers’ mom (Susan Sarandon, so, um, enhanced, there’s not a wrinkle in her face) is getting come-hither emails at work. Looks like everybody’s life is about to change.
The problem is, we don’t much care. The weak story and uninvolving characters leave us too easily distracted. Like, why didn’t someone realize that Sarandon’s hands give the lie to her polished face? And, again, why does it matter that Jeff lives at home?
I figured the filmmakers figured they couldn’t just call it “Jeff.” My pal wondered—quite rightly I think – why didn’they call it “Kevin?”