Ben Kingsley disappears into every character he plays, and the quiet senior citizen he becomes in Jules is no exception. The fact that he has a mop of hair and no trace of a British accent should come as no surprise; this is an actor who has played everyone from Mahatma Gandhi to Salvador Dali, not to mention his wide range of fictional characters in films as diverse as The Wackness and House of Sand and Fog.

In Jules, writer Gavin Steckler and director Marc Turtletaub have given him a part he can play with, an understated senior citizen whose life has fallen into a routine. He shows up at his hometown’s weekly council meeting, where he repeats the same suggestions he has made countless times before, and tends to the azaleas in his garden. When a flying saucer crashes in his back yard he tries to tell someone—anyone—that an alien has landed on his property but no one believes him, so he goes about his business and tends to the simple needs of his visitor from afar.

In time, two women who know him from the weekly meetings become involved, and as they are played by Harriet Sansom Harris and Jane Curtin, they (like Kingsley) are not caricatures or archetypes but believable people with amusing traits and quirks.

Jules is a slight film but an enjoyable one. It reminded me of Robot and Frank (2012) which gave a good part to another veteran actor, Frank Langella. The resemblance is superficial, except that I’ve come to value any film that offers actors I like something offbeat to add to their resumé. By the way—and not so incidentally—Jules tells its story in a compact 90 minutes.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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May 2024