Directed by Marc Turtletaub, Jules tells the story of an alien who crash lands in an old Pennsylvania man’s backyard – a crash that destroys his azaleas, much to his chagrin. Ben Kingsley stars as the old man, and Harriet Sansom Harris and Jane Curtain play other old ladies who scheme to keep the alien a secret.
Jules thematically includes interesting depictions about aging and the way we treat older people in our society. Milton (Kingsley) is never taken seriously as he tells people the truth about the alien, and his daughter (Zoe Winters) advocates sending her father to a home. His petitions to the city council go unnoticed or trivialized, and he finds himself a cipher in the whole of larger society.
Ben Kingsley acts the heck out of the role infusing Milton with great pathos in the few scenes that he can wring an emotional moment out of the plot, but it is all in a script that doesn’t deserve his talent. The story is essentially E.T.: The Extraterrestrial (1982) for old people, but the execution does not necessarily get the magic of E.T., and as much as the thematic elements are poignant and important, the connection between Milton and the alien is sorely lacking.
Additionally, one conflict between the father and the daughter isn’t resolved adequately by the end. Because this relationship plays a key role in Milton’s choices and occupies much of the film’s thematic weight, its lack of resolution is a serious issue.
All of that being said, Jules feels light and funny and unassuming, despite some of its heavier themes. And in this respect, the film ultimately succeeds but only in the limited sense of satisfying low expectations.