Starring: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Corey Stoll, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Timothy Olyphant, Kathryn Hahn, Connie Britton, Dax Shepard, Abigail Spencer, Debra Monk, Ben Schwartz.
Directed By: Shawn Levy
OK, I’m ashamed. I’ll admit to being 100% ashamed, but I will also note that this film currently only has a 44% on Rotten Tomatoes, which means that 44% of the population of critics also enjoyed this movie. I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would, especially considering that it is a Shawn Levy movie.
If you’re not familiar with the name Shawn Levy, I promise you’re familiar with his resume. Night At The Museum, The Pink Panther, The Internship, Cheaper By The Dozen, Date Night, Just Married, etc. This is actually his first R rated feature film. Levy actually cut his teeth as a TV director on kids programs like The Secret World Of Alex Mack and Animorphs, so color me surprised that he delivered a surprisingly adult film.
Of course, when you have the cast that he has, it’s hard to mess it up completely. This is one of Jason Bateman’s strongest performances, in a year where Bad Words was probably already his best performance. He handles the comedy, the sarcasm, and the heavy moments rather well. My problems in the cast lie with Tina Fey, who is not yet well versed in dramatic acting, and Adam Driver who is almost too obnoxious for his already obnoxious role. By the end of the film I had learned to tolerate Driver, but I dreaded seeing scenes where Fey connected with her emotions. I love Tina Fey, and I’d get in a bar room fight over Baby Mama, but I realized she’s out of her depth here. She was fine in her role, until they gave her a few “moments” where she had to pull from deep emotions she’s just not ready to pull from. A lot of ex-SNL cast members have been getting rave reviews for going dramatic, and Fey won’t be one of those… yet.
This film is basically carried by Bateman, with some solid help from Jane Fonda, Corey Stoll, Rose Byrne, and Dax Shepard. Shepard particularly has gotten really good at playing douchebag characters. I had no idea that Dax Shepard would have such a long career, but he’s still around. Props to him for figuring out what works for him.
The film does have a few “WTF” moments, which don’t always seem plausible, but the end result is a film that you’ll leave the theatre having fully enjoyed and ready to recommend. I was expecting a C+ or a B- level film from everything I’d heard, but I was pleasantly surprised. There’s a decent amount of heart here, a lot of comedy, and some decent acting. If you’re a Jason Bateman fan, you owe it to yourself to see him do something a little different here.
I’m shocked that I’m giving this film a high grade, but I’m not going to punish Shawn Levy for his past. I’d rather reward him for a job well done and hope he chooses to do more of this in the future. This Is Where I Leave You is probably the most relevant film he’s done, and definitely one he should be proud of.
FINAL GRADE: A-