Hulu now available Fly with the EagleIs a miniature-Neue Girl reunion, with star Jake Johnson once again working with recurring series director Trent O’Donnell. The film came together mid-pandemic — they collaborated on a script, talked Susan Sarandon and J.K. Simmons into supporting roles and shot it quick and dirty under strict Covid protocol, pre-vaccine. The result is somewhat stereotypical indie quirk in which Johnson plays an aimless overall-clad bongo player who’s set to inherit his long-estranged mother’s home, but only if he jumps through a bunch of annoying hoops as laid out in her will — with sweet, surprisingly funny results.
‘RIDE THE EAGLE’: SHARE IT OR SKIP?
Gist Honey (Sarandon) was a nut — past tense. She’s dead now. Cancer. She wouldn’t accept any treatment. She abandoned her son Leif (Johnson) when he was 12 so she could join a cult, and now, I’ll say it again, he’s an aimless overall-clad bongo playerIt clearly left him psychologically disabled. He was left her lovely cabin-home in the mountains. There, she painted some of her most horrible pictures. It cost her a fortune. Leif ventures up there in his busted-ass Econoline van and finds nunchucks and a bullwhip in his mother’s bedroom, and her cupboards jammed with bags and bags and jars and jars of weed. And he also discovers a taped will that states his inheritance is dependent upon his completion of a number of tasks.
Those tasks include breaking into an unidentified person’s house and leaving a note, killing and eating his own food, calling “the one that got away,” etc. Leif doesn’t have much going besides band practice — I’m not sure if I’m happy or sad that we don’t get to see one of these surely incredible-slash-terrible musical sessions — so he starts fulfilling her dying wishes. Most notably, he calls his ex, Audrey (D’Arcy Carden), and their banter is so witty, you just want them to get it over with and reconvene for smoochy nookietime.
Leif’s house was not obligated to be broken into, but the individual who is stalking Leif seems to be teasing him and making amusing comments. They will soon be known. Oh, and Leif’s companion the whole way is Nora, a black lab who’s sweet and cute and lends some adorable Dog Vibes to all the movie’s little tender, sad moments. Is Leif going to get the house? No spoilers, but really, what’s going to happen — Honey goes zombie, emerges from the grave and takes the keys away if he doesn’t follow her from-beyond-the-grave instructions?
Is it a reminder of any movies?: Fly with the Eagle is kind of Lynn Shelton Lite — it’s in the same vein as talky-funny mumblecore dramedies like Your Sister’s Sister or the Duplass Bros.’ Jeff, who Lives at Home.
Performance is worth paying attention:Despite a strong J.K. Simmons moment, it carries a fair share Fly with the Eagle’s emotional weight, and a lightly loony Sarandon appearing wholly on VHS tape — someone cast these two as a bickery couple in a dialogue-heavy comedy, please — the real standout here is Carden (of The Good Place fame), who lights a comedy firecracker under the movie’s hindquarters.
Memorable Dialogue: Leif looks deep into Nora’s eyes: “Wish I had dog brains half the time, it’d make life easier.”
Sex and skin: None. TBATCPTF: Too Busy Adhering To Covid Protocol To F—.
Our take: Fly with the EagleIt’s absurd in concept, but quite funny in practice. It’s a little gimmicky, and is yet another movie about a man-child on a long arrested-development arc — although it’s more subtle than, say, That’s My Boy. Johnson and O’Donnell’s screenplay keeps it afloat with effective bits of comedy and poignancy. It doesn’t lean on cute-dog reaction shots or go for the easy jokes; it’s smarter than that, maintaining a breezy tone and avoiding maudlin traps as Leif deals with complicated feelings, the passing of a mother he barely knew, a mother who’s trying to atone for her past mistakes with some posthumous parenting.
It has some light words to share about loss and growth. The film also includes a few solid jokes. After taking in the beautiful NorCal mountain scenery, it ends for the day. There’s nothing overly heavy or outrageous. It’s a nice, small-scale character piece, a little contrived and a little predictable, but not unforgivably so. It’s nice looking and it feels good. It’s not going to change the world — it simply offers a few laughs, a tear or two and plenty of warmth. It’s a good movie, a nice movie, and I mean that earnestly.
Get in touch with us: Fly with the EagleThis is a refreshing and enjoyable bit of optimism which can be enjoyed easily. It has modest goals but meets them. STEAM IT.
John Serba, a writer freelancer and film critic is located in Grand Rapids (Michigan). Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com.
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