Being nice is used as often as a pejorative as it is a positive. Especially when it comes to cinema, nice is more or less damning with faint praise. At the same time, Jules is a film that almost demands that you call it nice. It has small scale ambitions, coasts largely on the goodwill that the cast and light handling of the premise presents, and never asks much of you. Does that make for a movie that will blow you away? No. Does it make for a very pleasant way to spend a shade under 90 minutes? You better believe it does.
Jules mixes comedy, drama, and science fiction without ever really leaning hard into any of the genres. The result is a senior citizen hangout film, which we really don’t have many of. Cocoon, this is not, but it also is content to just do its own thing. It takes a few minutes to get on its wavelength, but once you do, there’s a bit of charm to be found here, alongside some very nice performances.
Milton Robinson (Ben Kingsley) lives the rather quiet life of a retired man in a small western Pennsylvania town, more or less just running out the clock. His daughter Denise (Zoë Winters) has noticed his faculties beginning to slip, but he’s still stubbornly insisting that he’s fine. So, when he awakens one day to see a UFO has crashed into his backyard, his concerns fall on deaf ears. Milton is worried, but when he sees the alien (Jade Quon) has emerged and is sprawled out in his yard, he brings it water. When it appears cold, he invites it in. In short order, a friendship of sorts develops.
Milton’s neighbors, the kindly Sandy (Harriet Sansom Harris) and the nosy Joyce (Jane Curtin) quickly discover the alien, which they name Jules. Considering how Milton isn’t really hiding it, they decide to help keep Jules a secret. Of course, the government is on the lookout for a crashed UFO, while Denise is worried about her dad. It all comes together in the end, especially once the trio realize that Jules is trying to fix their ship and head back home.
Ben Kingsley impressively underplays this part, when it would have been easy to go big. Alongside Jane Curtin and Harriet Sansom Harris, he makes for a warm presence to embrace. Curtin gets to provide more of the humor, while Sansom Harris is the beating heart. Kingsley mixes the two, turning in some of his better recent work. Zoë Winters doesn’t have much to do, while Jade Quon actually does a ton with a mute and fairly static character. Supporting players include Teddy Cañez, Jeff Kim, Cody Kostro, Donald Paul, and more.
Director Marc Turtletaub and writer Gavin Steckler keep things mildly weird, even if this is largely a hangout film, despite the genre trappings. Jules is a bit quirky, but also matter of fact. Steckler and Turtletaub just want you to go with it, and considering how it doesn’t even run 90 minutes, you’re either in or out. It took a few minutes, but once I was in, I more or less was in forever. I didn’t love their decision to have Jules’ ship run on dead cats, but that’s an animal thing that may only bother me. So, keep that in mind. Otherwise, it deals tenderly with aging, as well as finding time for some light humor in the process.
Jules is just a nice little movie, and that’s okay. It’s not particularly ambitious, but it does leave you with a good feeling on the inside. Aside from the cats thing, just about everything worked for me, even if it’s only on a low level. As far as this flick goes, it’s not destined to be beloved, but it’s destined to work on most who see it, which is something worth taking note of.