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Flirting With Disaster


Roger Davidson

Flirting With Disaster
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A hysterical black comedy, that makes fun of countless taboos and subjects that are usually treated very seriously. Ben Stiller and Patricia Arquette play a young married couple, who go in search of Stiller's biological parents, who gave him up for adoption years ago. His neurotic adoptive parents (Mary Tyler Moore and George Segal) are horrified at the thought of Stiller finding his real parents, and leaving them high and dry.

Accompanying Stiller and Arquette on their strange odyssey is a sexually frustrated woman from the adoption agency (Tea Leoni of The Naked Truth),to whom Stiller finds himself attracted and two gay FBI agents (Josh Brolin and Richard Jenkins), one of whom finds himself attracted to Arquette. Don't ask me how it fits together, because it gets increasingly complicated. But it does all eventually lead to Stiller meeting his real parents (Lily Tomlin and Alan Alda), who are (like most of the people in this film) incredibly strange.

Frequently the performers are outstanding in this lightning-paced comedy, which contains some good performances by veterans such as Alda, Moore, Tomlin and Segal (all cast slightly against type), while younger actors Arquette, Leoni and Stiller display some previously hidden talents for outrageous screwball comedy. Stiller comes off as the most surprising, since I've found most of his comedy as either an actor or director (Reality Bites and The Cable Guy) badly overindulgent and horribly manic. His imitations were bad, his comic timing even worse and his directorial skills were the pits. Yet he displays a calmly subdued, carefully thought-out performance here and he does indeed have some memorable moments. Among the memorable scenes, the funniest comes near the end, involving Agent Jenkin's experience with an acid-laced Quail dinner. A definite sleeper.

My Rating = Four Stars

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