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
Director: David O. Russell
Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video