Dave's Rating:

3.5

Bong As Magic 8-Ball

Weed makes people think they're Yoda.

Totally understandable, of course. And because it's understandable, and because the stoner dude in his mom's basement is so much a part the collective comedy consciousness, it's also understandable if you think you know what this movie holds in store. But what if that comedy stoner dude, through a carefully tailored life plan of bong hits, inertia and obsessive DVD watching, defied all expectations and actually gained Yoda-like intuition, wisdom and abilities?

That's the upshot of the latest film from Jay and Mark Duplass (Cyrus), a welcome detour into low-key supernaturalism saving what is, by all other appearances, another offhanded bit of shrugging indie familiarity.

Jason Segel is Jeff, who at age 30 lives in the grotty basement of his childhood home. He's a go-nowhere, do-nothing guy, preferring to smoke out and watch M. Night Shyamalan's Signs over and over. Estranged from his older brother Pat (Ed Helms), the "successful" one who's in the thick of a crumbling marriage to The Descendants' Judy Greer, Jeff spends his days idling and trying the patience of his widowed mother (Susan Sarandon).

After another visit with Signs, getting high, taking an angry wrong number call from someone demanding to speak to a guy named Kevin and being forced out of the house by a different phone call from Mom, who demands that he go buy some wood glue at the hardware store, Jeff becomes convinced that his day will necessarily include being in the right place at the right time to fulfill his destiny. All he needs to do is be still, watch for signs and act upon the cosmic demands of life. It's at this point that the film stops pretending to be a stoner comedy and transforms itself into an adventure mystery.

That mystery involves a bus ride, a traffic jam, a fire drill, a basketball game, a mugging, Pat's paranoia and short-sighted money-handling skills, Jeff's own lack of obvious direction, and Mom receiving internet messages from a secret admirer. And you thought it was just going to be about bong jokes. Well, there's one, not counting the casting of Second Generation Marijuana Legacy Rae Dawn Chong. It's when Jeff says, in the first third of the film, "I like weed," and from then on the shaggy story lopes along down one weird path after another.

American indie film has an irritating tendency to cute-ify everything it touches, championing oddball affectation and trying to pass it off as everyday reality. But what's cool and surprising here is how the Duplass' strip away the cuteness, leave you with a visual representation of everyday reality that's still warm, funny and inviting and then turn it all upside down in favor of a highly constructed fantasy about the inevitability of destiny. Maybe not what you were expecting to watch accompanied by your favorite brownies and a bag of Ruffles Loaded Chili & Cheese chips, but you'll be glad you did. And probably sleepy afterwards.

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