Leif (Jake Johnson) lives in a small cabin in one of his friend’s backyards. On a day-to-day basis, Leif enjoys doing very little other than smoking drugs, hanging out with his dog, and taking pride in the fact that he plays the bongos in a band that he hopes will one day achieve a smash hit single. But soon, someone visits Leif from his past and delivers some sad news. Leif’s mother, Honey (Susan Sarandon), has passed away after losing her battle with cancer. While the two haven’t spoken in a long time, his mother decided to leave him something important. Honey wants to give him her home, providing he is successful in completing a series of tasks. If Leif fails to complete his mother’s to-do list, her home will be sold to charity instead. Each requirement on the list will push Leif to overcome aspects of his life, including his past and facing his future. The question is, can Leif successfully complete his mother’s last request or is it too late for him to move forward in life?
Ride the Eagle is best described as a comedy and a touching drama. I was surprised to find how many moments managed to get a slight chuckle out of me, and then shortly after, show something quite touching as Leif deals with grief or life challenges in his own way. I also found it touching as Leif learned more about his mother’s world, including her attitude on worldly matters and her general outlook on life.
Jake Johnson is likeable and enjoyable as the lead, Leif. He brings a likeable presence to the big screen, and naturally, he delivers the majority of laughs. Jokes delivered by other characters certainly felt more designed to shock viewers with unexpected crudeness or sexual gags. This worked for much of its runtime, with only a couple of moments that I feel just didn’t quite work. Actors J.K Simmons and Susan Sarandon are rather likeable as side characters, even if their presence on screen is brief and minor.
The film’s pacing, like the gags, is generally great. After giving us a great insight into Leif’s life and getting him to step into his past and his mother’s life, the mystery of what Leif will need to do next is also exciting. I was certainly invested and was curious to know how this film would end. The third act was the weakest moment in the entire film. Even with heartfelt moments which are still touching, the finale just didn’t quite bring the high that the film was building towards. Some elements also feel vague, and viewers will need to make up their own opinions in key moments.
Overall, bringing a pleasing combination of drama and comedy, Ride the Eagle is an enjoyable film with heartfelt and comedic moments. Jake Johnson’s pleasing and rather likeable performance meant I found myself quite invested in his character. Side performances from J.K Simmons and Susan Sarandon felt brief, but they both still delivered highly effective moments. Pacing is great for the most part, but I felt the film’s weakest moment was the finale which seemed slow and vague. The humour managed to make me chuckle several times, but sadly some sexual jokes just didn’t quite work for me or overstayed their welcome. In the end, I can’t deny how much heart this film has, and I had a positive time watching one man’s journey to rediscover himself. Ride The Eagle (2021) will be available in QLD, WA, SA, TAS and NT cinemas from September 9 and ACT, VIC and regional NSW cinemas from September 23.