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USA 1996
Directed by
David O. Russell
92 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Flirting With Disaster

David O. Russell’s second feature as a writer-director is a considerable shift from the off-beat indie style of his 1994 debut, Spanking The Monkey and into more conventional comedy-of-errors territory.

In what in hindsight looks like him a preparatory run for Meet The Parents (2000) Ben Stiller stars as Mel Coplin who sets out on a road trip to find his biological parents with the help of his wife (Patricia Arquette), their baby and hihgly-strung a Ph.D. student (Téa Leoni), studying the outcomes of such reunions.

The film starts off unpromisingly looking like any other mid-range mid-Nineties comedy but builds fairly quickly into a mad-cap comedy as the threesome meet Mel’s squabbling adoptive Jewish parents (Mary Tyler Moore and George Segal), then visit the wrong biological mother (Celia Weston), demolish a US post-office while trying to connect to Mel’s father, pick up a couple of DFEA cops (Josh Brolin and Richard Jenkins) before finally arriving at the home of Mel’s real parents (Alan Alda and Lily Tomlin), unreconstructed fugitives from the cuonter-cultural Sixties.

Russell’s script is well-wrought with some genuinely funny scenes that amusingly play the many characters off each other. Needless to say the cast is outstanding with for me Leoni and Jenkins standing out.  As with most madcap comedies, Russell has trouble capping the escalating mayhem, introducing Mel’s half-brother, a character that doesn’t work, late in proceedings and some brief vignettes during the end credits a weak excuse for real resolution of the various plot strands, notably that of Mel's on-the-run biological parents. Between the unpromising start and the disappointing finish however there are plenty of chuckles to be had.




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