Monday, May 11, 2009

Movie Log: Flirting With Disaster

I've seen the trailer for Flirting With Disaster so many times, over so many years -- the movie's from 1996 -- that I wasn't quite sure if I'd ever seen the movie itself. Since it was short and funny -- my current movie mantra most of the time --I got it to check. And, lo and behold, I hadn't seen it.

Ben Stiller -- when he was still "that guy with the failed TV show" rather than "the dweeb in those huge movies" -- stars as Mel Coplin, who is very much in the post-Woody Allen tradition of neurotic New York Jewish men. His particular neurosis is focused on the fact that he was adopted (by George Segal and Mary Tyler Moore) and knows that, if he can only find his birth parents, everything in his life will snap into place.

And it had better snap soon; he and his wife Nancy (Patricia Arquette) had a baby almost six months ago, but haven't managed to name the little nipper due to Mel's family issues. But Mel has contacted the adoption agency that placed him, and their employee Tina (Tea Leoni) is going to travel with Mel and Nancy (and the baby) to find his birth parents, and film it for some kind of documentary. (The filming subplot is quietly dropped a couple of reels in, and never is important -- the movie never dives into the documentary footage, for example.)

So they fly to San Diego to meet the woman who gave birth to Mel, but wacky comedy hijinks ensue, and the cast keeps getting increased by other characters, and Mel & Tina & Nancy find themselves visiting several other parts of the country.

Flirting With Disaster is a David O. Russell movie, from the middle of the '90s indy-movie scene, but it's really an old-fashioned Hollywood comedy, with broad characters, pratfalls, and a heaping dose of the comedy of confusion. It looks like it's going to take itself pretty seriously at the start, but it settles down into being serious only every fifth minute or so for most of its length. It's not one of the great comedies of all time, but it's a fun movie filled with interesting actors (I haven't mentioned Lily Tomlin, Alan Alda, Josh Brolin, or Richard Jenkins) that's worth watching.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Flirting is that rare animal — the American Farce, complete with women scampering between rooms in underwear. Far more clever than about 90% of the usual U.S. comedy releases, it's a fun movie, even though it stars the turgid Stiller.

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