Tag Archives: Ben Stiller

Hot Pursuit (1987)

hot pursuit 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: He misses the plane.

Danny (John Cusack) attends a private school and when he flunks his chemistry test he’s not allowed to leave with his girlfriend’s family on their trip to the Caribbean. Then his professor inexplicably gives him a reprieve, which allows him to go anyways, but he misses the plane and is forced to play catch-up. First he meets up with some locals, but when their jeep gets submerged in water he takes up with a captain (Robert Loggia) who strands him out at sea. Meanwhile his girlfriend and her family have problems of their own when they inadvertently come into contact with drug smugglers.

The film is poor from the get-go and wastes Cusack’s appeal with material that lacks any imagination. The basic premise is derivative and the characters are one-dimensional. The plot plods along too slowly and the various hijinks that Danny finds himself in aren’t funny at all. The natives that he first meets up with are a bit on the creepy side and Loggia’s captain character is an over-the-top caricature that adds little.

The film’s biggest problem is its severe shift in tone. It starts out as an escapist comedy, which would’ve been alright had it actually been funny, but then ends up turning into a thriller when the family gets kidnapped by drug kingpins and it’s up to Cusack to get them out. Had it tried to keep some humor going during the tension it might’ve worked, but instead it gets unnecessarily serious and implausible with characters that are so poorly fleshed-out that the viewer really doesn’t care what happens to them making the climatic sequence boring and prolonged.

Cusack is good as always and I kind of liked him with his long hair look, but the character tends to be a bit too clean-cut. A young Ben Stiller appears here in his film debut and seeing him play against type as a leering, cocky bad guy is the only interesting thing about this movie and makes it somewhat worth catching.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: May 8, 1987

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Steven Lisberger

Studio: Paramount

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Flirting with Disaster (1996)

flirting with disaster

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Biological versus adoptive parents.

Mel Coplin (Ben Stiller) is a middle-aged man on a mission. He wants to find out who his biological parents are and is willing to travel the country to find them. His wife Nancy (Patricia Arquette) isn’t too happy about being dragged along and his adoptive parents Ed and Pearl (George Segal, Mary Tyler Moore) find his journey to be an insult to them. He uses the aid of part-time adoption agent Tina (Tea Leoni) to try and locate them, but her help only proves to lead him to a lot dead ends.

With the exception of Leoni the three female leads are good. Lily Tomlin has a funny moment as she tries to talk down the Richard Jenkins character from a LSD trip. Moore is fantastic playing a takeoff of her rigid mother role from Ordinary People. Every scene that she is in is hilarious and had she been in a few more she could have easily stolen the film. She wears a short reddish haircut and at times looks amazingly like Carol Burnett. Although she is not all that amusing Arquette is also quite good simply because she is the most believable of all the characters. Jenkins and James Brolin also have their moments as a bickering gay couple and Brolin’s arm pit fetish is great. It is also nice to see Stiller actually doing some acting instead of just playing a dull, average guy that simply reacts to all the zaniness around him, which is what he seems to pretty much do in most of his other films.

However, the movie seems more focused on being offbeat than it does in actually being funny. There is a great deal more misses than hits and the ones that do hit aren’t exactly uproarious. Leoni’s character adds little to the proceedings and her propensity at constantly leading Mel to the wrong people gets old pretty fast. There is also a glaring goof where Segal and Moore end up driving off with Tomlin and Alan Alda’s car since both couples drive the same make and model vehicle. Yet somehow they are able to use their OWN keys to start up the other car and even get into the other car’s trunk, which would not be possible.

This film could best be summed up as being the ‘sophomore jinx’ for writer/director David O. Russell since his first feature Spanking the Monkey was quite original as was his third one I (Heart) Huckabees. This film though tends to be over-the-top absurd without having any message or point to it.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: March 22, 1996

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated R

Director: David O. Russell

Studio: Miramax

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video