MOVIE REVIEW: “Ride the Eagle” stars Jake Johnson (New Girl [TV series], Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), Susan Sarandon (Thelma & Louise, Snitch), D’Arcy Carden (The Good Place [TV series], Barry [TV series]), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash , Juno), Luis Fernandez-Gil (Telenovela [TV series], Supercool), and Cleo King (The Hangover, Pineapple Express). It is directed by Trent O’Donnell (Review with Myles Barlow [TV series], No Activity [TV series]), who wrote the screenplay with Jake Johnson.
A loser bongo player is suddenly gifted his distant-mother’s cabin when she passes away of cancer. However, there is one condition: he must complete a series of tasks she has left him in order to obtain the cabin.
It’s always nice when your crappy excuse for a mom leaves you a conditional will after she dies, am I right?
Jake Johnson helms this project, taking not only the actor reigns, but the writer’s as well (alongside director Trent O’Donnell). What results is a fairly humorous, slightly endearing feature that takes a jab at the meaning of life, and the learning of letting go.
“Ride the Eagle” does what you would expect by the trailer. Johnson knows comedy well, and his style is written all over the scenes. Sexual, physical, and awkward jokes abound, some of which land well. I think if anything, this is one of those comedies you find yourself smiling at more than actually laughing (which isn’t a bad thing by any means). Everyone he brought aboard on this knows humor, with stand-outs being J.K. Simmons (who plays a former lover of Johnson’s mom) and Susan Sarandon, whose performance is restricted to a pre-recorded VHS tape that Johnson watches throughout the film. Oh, and Luis Fernandez-Gil is also funny; a unique, fresh face for sure.
Clearly, the acting is what keeps this rather basic story afloat. There’s not much to it, outside of the witty concept of the cabin and what Johnson has to do to obtain it. All of the pieces that make up the narrative are pretty generic, and the lesson to be learned is quite predictable. This isn’t too much of an issue to me, but where my beef primarily lies is in the character development. Johnson’s Leif is a loser in life who holds many grudges. However, his personal growth is restrained by my lack of knowledge on the guy. We learn of who he is primarily through what his mom speaks of him on the VHS tapes, but that isn’t the smartest way of character development. To men, there’s nothing much to Leif; sure, his life is kind of listless, but his problems aren’t conveyed through him.
I enjoyed certain elements of this tale, with some highlights including J.K. Simmons’ introduction and some of the conversations shared between Leif and Audrey (Carden), a former flame he deems as “the one who got away.” Their dialogue was natural, fitting how real, awkward conversations might go when you contact someone you haven’t talked to in multiple years. The cinematography also isn’t too shabby for being a low-budget comedy. The filmmakers had some good material on their hands given the setting this story takes place (cabin in the woods, filled with hiking and canoeing shots).
Did I expect much from this going in? Not really. Though I was opened to being surprised, which I wasn’t. “Ride the Eagle” is a nice little film with some humorous moments and solid performances. Johnson knows how to craft natural dialogue, and the concept he has formulated at least attracts interest. It’s mainly the execution of it all that makes this one slip to the back. If you are looking for something new, this might be refreshing in a mix of blockbusters and superhero flicks. But don’t expect it to challenge you as much as it thinks it is. FINAL SCORE: 74%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: