THE THING ABOUT MY FOLKS (Raymond De Felitta). 96 minutes. Opens Friday (September 30). For venues and times, see Movies, page 115. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Paul Reiser's script for The Thing About My Folks could easily be called The Thing About Schmaltz. The comedy vet fails to realize that a little manipulative heart-tugging goes a long way.
Reiser plays Ben, a Jewish novelist and father whose own pop, Sam (Peter Falk), appears on his doorstep after receiving a Dear John letter from his wife of 40 years. Ben, his own wife (Elizabeth Perkins) and his trio of sisters start looking for the missing matriarch (Olympia Dukakis), and father and son set out on a road trip that - hello, Norman Rockwell! - binds them together.
Amidst the vivid autumn foliage of upstate New York, the two men do things they've never done before. They go fishing, they play pool, they buy peaches from a farm stand.
Each activity - punctuated by Sam's occasional flatulence - brings them closer to an emotional epiphany that you can see coming like a Mack truck on the interstate.
Director Raymond De Felitta reins in the actors so they don't embarrass themselves. But even he can't save a scene that includes father and son on their backs trying to identify the Big Dipper in the starry sky.
The film works best in its few subtle moments, which include an understated, brief appearance by Dukakis near the end.
Reiser, like many stand-ups-turned-TV-icons, looks as youthful as ever. Perhaps laughter really is the best medicine. Or maybe those sitcom residuals have made his life really, really cushy.
Paul Reiser's best known for his long-running sitcom Mad About You, but he's also a pretty decent writer. He penned two best-selling memoirs, and now comes his first full-length screenplay, The Thing About My Folks (see review, this page), on screens Friday. Despite the touchy-feely father-son revelations, the film's still pretty funny. Reiser started out as a stand-up, as anyone who saw his impeccably timed version of the dirty joke in The Aristocrats will know.
Favourite Peter Falk movie?
A toss up between Pocketful Of Miracles and The In-Laws.
Were the farts audio special effects?
Actually, they came via a stunt double, a very famous screen legend who shall remain anonymous. Hint: "Canadian-born."
This film's a tearjerker. How many hankies do you recommend taking?
Just rub your nose on the sleeve of a loved one. If you're by yourself, what better way to meet the person next to you?
What things are you "mad about" these days?
I've fallen in love with Olympia Dukakis, and I'm actually okay with it.
Who or what made you laugh the most in The Aristocrats?
George Carlin and the mime.
Who or what made you feel sick in The Aristocrats?
I'd rather not go there.
You've been in one classic sitcom and at least two classic films, Diner and Aliens. If you put all three characters in a room, what would happen?
Modell [from Diner] would take a sandwich from Paul Buchman, and the guy from Aliens would lock them in a room and kill them both. firstname.lastname@example.org