In a sea a sequels, big-budget productions and awful Netflix fillers, sometimes it's nice to watch something simple, sweet and warm. To come from the mind of a man most famous for portraying one of the most highly strung, neurotic characters to ever grace TV screens, 'Ride the Eagle' is a nice throwback to Jake Johnson's early indie career and what helped us fall in love with him in the first place.
Leif (Johnson, TV's 'New Girl') is a professional (although not particularly successful) percussionist living in a hut on his boss' property with his beloved dog, Nora. When he receives word that his estranged mother Honey (Susan Sarandon, 'Moonlight Mile') has died, he isn't overwrought with emotions, be it anger or grief. He simply declares that while he loved his mother, the truth is he didn't really know her. Regardless of their personal standing, Honey has left Leif her cabin in Yosemite, provided that he completes a list of tasks - a mother's job teaching her son is never done. Void of the cliché hero's reluctance, and with nothing to lose and everything to gain, Leif accepts the challenge. The tasks have him confront a stranger in an odd set of miscommunications. He reconnects with an old girlfriend with surprising humility, and he discovers a slice of heavenly nature - and maybe, just maybe, he'll come to terms with some deep-seated grief.
Gone are action set pieces, contrived emotional breakdowns, baseless angry outbursts or inorganic plot points. 'Ride the Eagle' is simply a man doing his thing, on a quiet and personal journey that we the audience just happen to be privy to. It's cute, peaceful and occasionally funny thanks in large part to the involvement of J.K. Simmons. And there's an adorable dog, always a bonus. This movie isn't pretentious in any way. It doesn't promise to be anything it isn't and therefore it doesn't overdeliver, underachieve or disappoint. It is what it is.
It's cute, peaceful and occasionally funny thanks in large part to the involvement of J.K. Simmons.
This very small yet perfect cast do what they do, and do it well. The always delightful D'Arcy Carden (TV's 'The Good Place') is pure sunlight. J.K. is, well, J.K.; no complaints there. And Susan, who only appears on a TV screen, is always the voice of reason. As for Jake, as co-writer of this piece along with friend and occasional 'New Girl' director Trent O'Donnell, you can tell that he's relishing delivering his own words and occupying a character who lives more internally than externally and lets the in-between moments shine.