April 14, 2021
Where’s the Dude when you need him? Bowling alley-set directorial debut would score with more laughs and more feeling
When Jeff Tried to Save the World review – slacker movie is an underachiever
Straight out of film school, aged 22, while her peers were off interning, Kendall Goldberg directed her feature debut, this offbeat, earnest movie about a quarter-life crisis (released in the US in 2018). That’s an undeniably impressive achievement, and the film has some interesting ideas about overparenting and how grown-up kids can buckle under the pressure of Mum and Dad’s expectations. But otherwise it feels a bit generic – shuffling the pack of quirky indie movie cliches, not quite funny enough to be a comedy but with too little authentic emotion to work as drama.
Jon Heder plays Jeff, the manager of Winky’s World, a bowling alley so poorly maintained that it’s acquired a kind of retro-chic. Jeff is an underachiever, a computer science graduate who takes medication for depression and anxiety. (Heder’s performance is a bit flat – like he sees depression as a giant vacuum cleaner that has sucked away Jeff’s personality.) The Job at Winky’s suits Jeff; he likes the routine, it makes him feel safe. But the owner is threatening to sell, so Jeff decides to turn the business into a going concern, with free pizza and live music. This stuff is only ever mildly entertaining, though there’s a funny scene where he persuades the maintenance guy (Steve Berg doing a Zach Galifianakis) to trash-talk Winky’s to potential buyers.
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