Jeff, Who Lives at Home is the unofficial sequel to Signs you’ve been waiting for. Or so the title character thinks.
The new Duplass brothers (Cyrus, Baghead) comedy centres around a slacker dude named Jeff (Jason Segel, The Muppets), who is obsessed with the M. Night Shyamalan/Mel Gibson alien flick, its views on destiny and the old adage “Everything happens for a reason.” So when a strange man calls his house asking for “Kevin,” who definitely does not live with him and his mother (Susan Sarandon), he assumes it’s a sign from the heavens.
Jeff rearranges the letters in former Backstreet Boy’s name, looking for a hidden message and coming up with (of course) “knive.” He then picks up a knife, and the phone rings again. It’s his mom, asking him to get out of the basement and go to Home Depot to buy a shutter. He does as his mama tells him and ends up on an empirical adventure through the Baton Rouge suburbs.
What starts out as a traditional deadpan indie comedy (it’s got that handycam zooming, real-life lighting and everythang!), quickly turns sincerely sentimental. While Jeff attempts to find his next sign, his mother finds herself—and a secret admirer—at work. And his brother (Ed Helms of The Hangover and TV’s The Office), a Porsche-obsessed prick, slowly learns to love his long-time girlfriend (Judy Greer, The Descendants).
This disjunctive, oft-overachieving tone will disappoint those looking for yet another Judd Apatow effort. But it’s actually the film’s strength. It’s never too over-the-top in terms of drama or comedy. Sure, certain sections can be kind of preachy, but we’re taken back down to earth quickly with a side stoner joke.
Segel and Helms pass for brothers with flying colours, bouncing off each other with an awkward art. After all, they’re kind of the same dude—the adorably goofy nice guy with overactive eyes. But Segel is a truly gigantic presence, eclipsing everyone with his enormous stature and heart. If this is a sign of what’s to come, it looks like Jeff won’t be the only one with a perfectly pre-set future. B
Starring Jason Segel, Ed Helms and Judy Greer. Directed by Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass. 83 minutes. 14A