Review: A twist on the man-child romp in ‘Laggies’ |

Review: A twist on the man-child romp in ‘Laggies’

Director Lynn Shelton has made a specialty out of deconstructing sitcom-y setups. Instead of heightening the broad potential of such stories, she plays them naturally, with an un-stylized, micro-budget intimacy.

In “Laggies,” Shelton has brought her light, heartfelt touch to her most familiar, movie-ready plot — a version of the back-to-school comedy with the soul-searching of a direction-less 28-year-old Seattleite (Keira Knightley).

Megan has spent her post-high-school life procrastinating and earning a graduate degree in marriage and family therapy that she hasn’t put to use, unable to relate to her clients. She lives with her cloyingly sweet high-school boyfriend (Mark Webber) and does odd jobs for her father (Jeff Garlin).

When her careerist, bridezilla friend (Ellie Kemper) gets married and her boyfriend proposes, Megan’s arrested development turns into a crisis.

On a run to the grocery store, she meets 16-year-old Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz), who gets her to buy beer for her friends. They hit it off, partly because their maturity level is about equal.

Megan crashes with Annika, becoming enmeshed in her group of friends and attending high-school parties.

Annika, too, is a little lost, her mom having abandoned her and her father (Sam Rockwell), a divorce attorney who suspiciously observes the arrival of her daughter’s clearly older new friend at their suburban split-level. Returning to the stage in life where she became stunted, Megan — in a tail spin of impulsiveness — begins to figure herself out.

“Laggies,” penned by Andrea Seigel, is a welcome twist on man-child movies, one with more than a little in common with “Bridesmaids.” The familiar notes — the wacky friend, the inevitable prom scene — to Shelton’s film keep it from ever finding the kind of honesty its characters crave.

Shelton’s ability to coax unadorned performances from actors is her most obvious skill, and it results here with a fine Knightley as a recognizable kind of selfishly meandering mess.

But it’s Moretz and Rockwell who give “Laggies” its charm. Moretz has a warm poise beyond her years that radiates through the film. The off-kilter energy of Rockwell, looking very much the sure-handed veteran, gives the movie a happy jolt.

Jake Coyle is a film critic for the Associated Press.

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