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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