‘Ride the Eagle’ Review: A Nontoxic Bro Faces Midlife Lessons

It’s doubtful that anyone who has enjoyed the work of the writer and actor Jake Johnson can name, offhand, an instance in which he has played a guy who works in an office. It’s just not a thing with his nontoxic, shaggy bro persona. In “Ride the Eagle,” which Johnson co-wrote with the director Trent O’Donnell, he plays a character compelled to contend with imminent middle age. But no worries — his journey in no way obliges him to button down or up. Just the opposite.

Johnson’s Leif, a man of simple pleasures — yes, he fires up a joint pretty much as soon as he’s out of bed — lives on the property of the leader of a band for which he plays the conga drum. His mom, Honey (Susan Sarandon), who abandoned him as a child, has died. She has bequeathed to him a much snazzier cabin than his current one — but to get it, he has to run a gantlet of life lessons Honey lays out for him in a video she recorded before she died.

When Leif arrives at her place, he finds a significant amount of dope in its cabinets, establishing a new bond between mother and son. The marijuana did not, strictly, belong to Honey, which sets up a plot point that draws in a menacing J.K. Simmons. Her instructions to Leif include a lot of carpe diem stuff that you yourself have likely heard a thousand times, even if you don’t have a hippie in your life. Fulfilling one task, Leif reconnects with an old love, the initially nonplused Audrey (D’Arcy Carden).

“Where do these people get their money,” I wrote in my notes as Leif and his dog set out for a long drive at the film’s fade-out. Doesn’t matter. Nor do the multiple clichés. In “Ride the Eagle,” the laid-back vibe is all.

Ride the Eagle
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 28 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on Apple TV, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.

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