Ben Stiller’s non-comedy films are kind of a mixed bag, but I suppose that’s also true of his comedy films, too. But this one is particularly rough, and it’s hard to understand how this one even got made.
Stiller plays Brad Sloan, who runs a non-profit organization and has made a pretty good life for himself. He and his wife Melanie (Jenna Fischer) live a comfortable living even though she works for the government and their very smart and musically gifted son Troy (Austin Abrams) is planning to go to an ivy-league school in the fall. But when he compares himself to his very wealthy and successful college friends (including Michael Sheen, Luke Wilson, Jermaine Clement, and Mike White), he considers himself a failure. And when he takes Troy on a trip to Boston to check out a number of potential colleges, he spends pretty much the entire time moping about it and the realization that he’s really not even all that close with those friends anymore.
This movie is nothing short of a white privilege pity party of first-world problems. It does call itself out on this about halfway through when a college student (Shazi Raja) tries to give him a reality check, and yet Brad continues to wallow in his middle-class funk for at least another half an hour before he reaches the obvious and unsatisfying conclusion that his friends’ lives aren’t all that great after all (or at least that they aren’t great people), while his life isn’t all that bad. It’s dull and tone deaf and eminently skippable.