Adult Beginners' plot: After becoming a pariah to just about everyone he's connected with after a failed product launch, self-centred entrepreneur Jake (played by stand-up comic Nick Kroll) returns to his childhood home where his sister, Justine (played by Rose Byrne), and brother-in-law, Danny (played by Bobby Cannavale), live with their three-year-old son. As Jake licks his wounds and contemplates his next step, he comes to appreciate the value of family and the virtue of humility.
Kroll would seem to be an unlikely candidate to play a character who rediscovers their humanity in a comedic film with touchy feely leanings like Adult Beginners, considering the abrasive nature of his stand-up act and his television roles on The League and Kroll Show. His snide personality is intact initially, mind you, but that edge is gradually dulled as Jake is welcomed into his sister's home and takes on the nanny responsibilities for his nephew. The fish-out-of-water scenario rarely yields impactful results, however, be they of the moving or comedic variety, and the movie rarely goes anywhere you're not expecting it to. Kroll acquits himself decently with the limited material, as do Byrne and Cannavale, who are given their own marital issues to wrestle with as a subplot. Peripheral characters played by Jane Krakowski, Josh Charles, Paula Garces, and Joel McHale barely register, although one scene with Saturday Night Live's Bobby Moynihan playing a former classmates of Jake's delivers the movie's best laughs and will ring true for anyone who's had one of those run-ins with someone from your past that you wouldn't even want as a Facebook friend.
Adult Beginners disappoints with its skimpy joke-to-laugh ratio and ability to move the viewer with Jake's transformation, adding up to a slight movie that's unlikely to stay with you for very long.