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IN SHORT: An okay 30something plus date flick [Rated PG-13]
As always, Cranky makes no comparison to Source Material, a movie comedy by Neil Simon which starred Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis.
Right from the start, as John Lennon's "(Just Like) Starting Over" plays over the title credits, you're placed in a world of no-sparks-in-the-bed baby boomers about to suffer empty nest syndrome. After 27 years together, there's no spark for advertising exec Henry Clark (Steve Martin) and his wife Nancy (Goldie Hawn) though she tries her best in an amusing opening sequence. If that opening 'graph hasn't made clear that this flick is not for GenXers or lower age groups, now you see it in black and white.
While there is a lot of frenetic comedy in this movie, involving loss of money and possessions while on a one day jaunt to New York City, it's really a story about rediscovering romance in a long term relationship. Those of us doomed to spinsterhood (sic) can empathize with this Ohio couple who are faced with the question of "now what do we do?" once their youngest child has left the nest. What Henry does is head for New York City. There, he hopes to find work -- he hasn't told his wife that he's been laid off from his job -- another challenge facing the 40something or so group that Martin's character fits into.
While Henry is more than willing to make the trip alone, Nancy pratfalls into the plane and from there on in, it's 24 hours of Hell in New York, as everything that could go wrong with a trip, does. Beginning with the rerouting of their plane to Boston. To be fair, these Ohioans are much smarter than the New Yorkers faced with trip reroutes in Forces of Nature a couple of weeks back. The Clarks know the logical sequence of available travel alternatives, though they have almost as much difficulty rebooting their plans as the couple in that other flick.
In general, Neil Simon has always excelled in putting ordinary characters in ordinary situations gone awry and this time out Marc Lawrence has updated a lot of gags to involve new technology. His script fills the first half of The Out-of-Towners with sight gags and some very intelligent humor. It also introduces Monty Python's John Cleese as a hotel manager who becomes their biggest foe, once our heroes are stripped of all possessions and money by a mugger with a good cover story. So much for the first half. In the second half we get down to the sex and drug gags that allow Goldie Hawn to go psycho and Steve Martin to absolutely roar.
Let's talk about the stars. Goldie Hawn has built a solid career on ditzy and or naive characters (we'll leave out the serious work for the purposes of this review). Here, she tries to deliver a double dose of both types in her middle aged mom, but the pratfall humor just isn't funny. When Goldie lets the naiveté side bubble over with frustration, the eventual explosion is a welcome sight. Her best scenes involve the seduction of a hotel guest to get a bed and meal for the night. That, like everything else, goes wrong. It's good stuff.
Steve Martin began his "on-stage" career (as opposed to his earlier gig as a writer for the Smothers Brothers) two decades back as a "wild and crazy guy". He's calmed down and boosted the intelligence of his humor since but here he comes as close as possible to reviving the spark of his crazy guy. Henry, as you have probably seen in the television commercial, is slipped some kind of hallucinogenic after he gets busted for . . . well, that would be telling. Once the acid is dropped, Martin cuts loose. All the inhibitions of his Ohio guy fall away and things get dumb and funny. It's a blast.
As for Mr. Cleese, let's just say that there is nothing that can embarrass a Brit, especially a Python. A cheap visual gag runs his part of the story. It's something you've seen before, but remains amusing. That's all I'll say.
The Out-of-Towners again affirms that poverty and humiliation can be funny. It tries hard to balance the romantic story with straight out slapstick and manages to amuse. It isn't roaring funny, but it is entertaining for us decrepit old reviewers.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Out-of-Towners, he would have paid...
Pay per view level. Let's be honest, those of us over 30 don't like to use our brains a helluva lot, which is why we rent more often than not. The Out-of-Towners falls solidly in the teevee time range, though if you're single again and can find a demographically primed theater, it's a more than passable date flick.
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