Friday, August 17, 2012

The Out-Of-Towners Rapidly Runs Out Of Humor

The Good: It's a chance to see Steve Martin.
The Bad: It's not funny, it goes nowhere.
The Basics: So completely unfunny as to not be worth your time, The Out-Of-Towners is truly disappointing.

For those who follow my reviews, I know I tend to "grade" fairly hard on comedies. Part of my reasoning for actually having standards when it comes to rating comedies is: 1. Continuity (a level of trust that my ratings are generally being rated on the same scale to one another) and, more importantly for this argument, 2. Rewatching. Comedies suffer more than any other genre upon repeated viewings. It's hard to find the same thing funny after five viewings, much less twentieth (which is the estimated number of times I've seen The Usual Suspects, reviewed here!). The thing is, great comedy will be entertaining upon repeat viewings. There are some comedies that succeed in being so original or so funny that they may be viewed or listened to on many occasions and still be found to be as enjoyable as the first time.

The Out-Of-Towners is not one such film.

On the most important front, it's not funny. I didn't laugh a single time during viewing the film. That's sad because it was only this morning that I saw a preview of the movie that made me want to see it. Actually, as far as that goes, all of the moments that come closest to humor are in the preview. If you happen to rent Payback (reviewed here!), odds are the tape will have the preview for The Out-Of-Towners. Enjoy it; there's not much in the film to enjoy.

The Out-Of-Towners follows Henry and Nancy Clark on their first trip together alone (without their children) in twenty-four years. The mild mannered Ohio couple take to New York because Henry has a job interview there. When their flight is rerouted to Boston, they're forced to attempt to get to New York City using other means that we, the viewers, are supposed to find funny. Once in New York, we are supposed to be amused by the problems at the hotel (including a cross-dressing hotel manager), in Central Park and on the lawn of an estate. The film leads up to the actual interview.

Along the way, Henry and his wife argue and reconcile about problems in their lives including Nancy's knowledge that their daughter dropped out of college, Henry's unemployment and other nuggets that challenge the their relationship. While these would usually be a plus in most films, the attempts to be funny override so many of the attempts to build characters that by the time they get around to building character, I didn't care. That and I was so sick of Goldie Hawn's whining (which, to her defense, was in character of Nancy).

In short, the characters in The Out-Of-Towners are terrible. It is impossible to become emotionally invested in either of the Clarks because they are so unlikable as to be unwatchable. Part of the problem here is in the use of the talent. The Out-Of-Towners has three real talents in Goldie Hawn, Steve Martin and John Cleese. None of them are used well.

Steve Martin's performance "reads" like an extended Saturday Night Live sketch. One of the bad ones. One of the ones that made the producers wince over the idea of the series being released in its entirety on DVD. And John Cleese uses none of his spontaneity, charm or innate wackiness in his role as the hotel manager. Cleese could be swapped out for a comatose Chevy Chase and still get the same comedic effect.

The only plus side I could find to this film was that it was in good taste. The actors are making a genuine effort, but it's not working. The script isn't funny, so it's hard for the actors to fill the characters with more than there is. In this case, there's so little to work with that not even Steve Martin and John Cleese can make it work. It's pretty sad.

So, if you can find something funny in The Out-Of-Towners, let me know, but at this point, it would take quite a lot for me to sit through it again for you to prove your point.

For other works with Mark McKinney, be sure to check out my reviews of:
The Kids In The Hall - Season 1
The Kids In The Hall - Season 2
Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip


For other film reviews, check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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