Plot: What’s it about?
These days if I see Ben Kingsley starring in a film, I usually make a point to check it out. There are exceptions to this if the premise just doesn’t appeal to me, but usually, his star power is enough to have me sold. It was his excellent turn as gangster, Don Logan in Sexy Beast that got me interested. And for good reason as the guy rarely, if ever has turned in a bad performance. Even if the film isn’t so great, you can usually say Kingsley did a worthy job.
Jules is a rather unique film that follows Milton (Ben Kingsley) as a man who lives a quiet life and lives alone in a small western Pennsylvania town. We learn that his wife has passed away, and his daughter, Denise (Zoe Winters) is a veterinarian and checks on him occasionally. It appears as if early dementia may be setting in, but Milton refuses to get a checkup. We follow him as he attends local city council meetings and essentially repeats the same thing each time. One night he is awoken by a loud noise. As it turns out, a spaceship has crashed in his backyard. He calls the police, but they don’t believe him, nor does his daughter. It doesn’t take long for the fil to introduce the alien (who obtains the name Jules from one of the characters that discovers him) and Milton feeds him and learns he’s keen on apples. He buys a large amount from the grocery store and tells the cashier they’re for an alien. His first thought is that it’s an illegal alien, but Milton tries to explain. It doesn’t take long for a couple of other female characters to learn of the alien, but they agree to keep it amongst themselves. Jane Curtain has a supporting role here as does Joyce as does Harriet Sansom Harris as Sandy. One fears what the government will do to Jules if they discover him. Eventually, they learn that the alien requires dead cats (yes, you read that right) to prepare to leave earth. This leads to an unfunny subplot where the characters need to obtain a few more dead cats for Jules. The very thought of searching for roadkill is gross enough, but the film commits to this. Jules never speaks in the film and seems to sit still and not bother anyone. That is until he sees Sandy being attacked by a young man who plans on stealing her jewelry. I won’t reveal what happens, but the police decide to follow them to see what they’re up to. Mostly, though, this is standard stuff. The focus more on the characters is a nice touch even if the story is straightforward and not the most remarkable.
The obvious comparison here is to E.T. and that’s more than fair. Think of it as an extraterrestrial film geared toward adults. And I’m more than fine with that as the market in recent years hasn’t provided a lot of adult fare. The film is certainly easy to digest, and hard to dislike. The problem I feel is that the alien here is just so darn ugly. I won’t mince words. I can say that E.T. was and still is adorable. This thing, well, let’s just say that he’s kind of creepy if I’m being totally honest. The human characters were fine, and I enjoyed following their journey, but the film, as harmless as it is, just felt too slight. There’s a feeling of redundancy here. I appreciate its honest take of having to deal with getting older, but it didn’t leave me with much beyond that. Still, it’s a decent enough way to spend some 90 or so minutes. Just don’t expect it to resonate much with you.
Video: How’s it look?
This is another example of newer films in a rather odd aspect ratio of 2.00:1. I actually prefer it. It doesn’t fill up the entire screen, but we don’t have those wide black bars either. But that’s personal preference. Nevertheless, the AVC encoded image suffers a bit from some minor compression issues, but by and large is a crisp, clean looking film. Given the nature of the (age) of the cast, we can see much detail, though it’s juxtaposed by some of the other nuances in the movie. Contrast is strong, black levels seem right and so forth. It’s a good, but not great, looking picture.
Audio: How’s it sound?
This isn’t Star Wars, so don’t go thinking it is, OK? But the included DTS HD Master Audio mix does have a few moments that surprised me. Generally speaking, this is a dialogue-driven film that’s consistent with what we’d expect. Vocals are sharp and pure, directional effects resonate through the surrounds and give off a presence, to be sure. Like the video, it’s good, but nothing too memorable.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Jade Becoming Jules – The lone supplement on the disc features Joshua Turi as we witness the process of turning actress Jade Quon into the titular character. It’s a nice feature, but there could have been so much more.
The Bottom Line
Jules has its heart in the right place, but the film feels all too slight and redundant. I was involved enough with it as I watched it, but it didn’t resonate beyond that. Also, the alien is more creepy than cute. I would give it a mild recommendation with caveats. The performances also add to it, especially from Ben Kingsley in the lead.