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   FLIRTING WITH DISASTER (1996) 

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CAST
Ben Stiller
Patricia Arquette
Téa Leoni
Alan Alda
Mary Tyler Moore
George Segal
Lily Tomlin
Josh Brolin
Richard Jenkins
Celia Weston

DIRECTED BY
David O' Russell

PURCHASE


DVD




Time: 92 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Comedy


I recently saw FLIRTING WITH DISASTER again for the first time since it came out in the theater. I remember laughing my pants off at the antics of Stiller and company as they set off on a road trip to discover who his real parents are. It was still funny the second time around, but I have to say this is one of those films where surprise at what happens next helps to make the story more amusing. Once you know the best bits some of the edge is gone. Though this tale certainly has enough antics for several viewings. The cast is just amazing with the two sets of parents – Mary Tyler Moore and George Segal and Lily Tomlin and Alan Alda – stealing the show. Believe me you've never seen Ms. Moore quite like this. Stiller is neurotically earnest in his quest to find his true roots. Without this information he feels he can't proceed with his own family life, especially the naming of his 4 month old son. Though an unlikely couple, he and Arquette have a genuine chemistry that is the real heart of the film.

Though most people aren't adopted, I think Stiller's quest is one everyone can relate to. I'd hope they wouldn't have this crazy a time trying to unearth the answers, but I'm glad he does. As Mel Coplin, Stiller is desperate to acquire this knowledge much to the distress of his adoptive parents (Segal & Moore) and the frustration of his wife Nancy (Arquette). Nancy is much more supportive than his parents, but then again she doesn't have much choice if she wants to keep her family together. Especially, once she sees the legs on Tina (Leoni), the woman from the adoption agency helping Mel find his parents. Tina will be travelling with them, documenting the reunion for the agency. Unfortunately, Tina has more looks than brains and things go from uncomfortable to horrible at light speed. Not only does she have them meeting the wrong people, she's flirting with Mel, causing him to have serious doubts about his marriage. She also has Mel totally disregarding the safety of his baby, a fact which Nancy will not tolerate.


"Every marriage is vulnerable, otherwise being married wouldn't mean anything, would it?"

Once they discover the real truth behind Mel's parentage, they head off to Arizona to meet the unwitting couple. They pick up a couple of FBI agents along the way, Tony and Paul. Tony (Brolin) is an old friend of Nancy's from high school and Paul is his lover. They're having "marital" problems of their own. Tony wants to adopt a baby and begins to constantly pump Nancy for info. Nancy is glad for the attention, since Mel has been basically ignoring her the whole trip, but it makes Mel and Paul extremely angry. Once they reach, the Schlichting residence, things get even more crazy. It turns out Mel's parents are not at all what he expected. He's stunned when he hears the reason they gave him up, as well as by the fact that he has a brother, who is none to happy to make his acquaintance. His parents aren't the most stable of people, so it's no surprise that things get way out of control, with Mel and Nancy almost making irreparable decisions. In the end, they rediscover what it means to be a family and what they mean to each other. It also turns out that his adoptive parents are much better for Mel than he real parents ever could be.

All in all, FLIRTING WITH DISASTER is a family-driven comedy that pushes the edge of the envelope of good taste without ever going over, unlike some of Stiller's more recent endeavors. David O'Russell roots his strange tale in the real world and though these situations are unlikely to all happen to one person, they are ten times more believable than a film like THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY. FLIRTING is an intelligent, heartfelt comedy that will leave you in stitches. Stiller is a great every man for the 90s: sensitive, yet blind to the needs of others; loving, yet able to be tempted. Ultimately, a man who sticks to his commitment not because he has to, but because he wants to. Arquette is wonderfully funny as the frustrated wife, who's willing to go along for the ride, as long as it ends somewhere. Leoni stretches her comic muscles as the seductive, yet incompetent agency official. Normally, I wouldn't let her near my man with a 10-foot pole, but it's clear she's too emotionally screwed up to be any real threat.

The final sequence where Mel meets his hippy parents, played wonderfully by Tomlin and Alda, is truly worth sitting through the movie for. You've never seen a reunion quite like it. O'Russell, like the Coen brothers, has quite a unique sense of humor, that's very weird and very dark. He also has a great visual style, which is evident even in this little road picture, but comes to full fruition in his next film THREE KINGS. Personally, I can't wait to see what he comes up with next. Unfortunately, the DVD doesn't have any real extras to speak of, which is a real shame. There are plenty of scenes I would love to have gotten the actors thoughts on. If you want to see a comedy worth Stiller's talent, check this one out. He actually has to act in this one and it's pure comic fun. Of course, if you like SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, this may not be the film for you. It actually has a well-written script, funny dialogue and a plot worth the time spent.



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