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The Out-of-Towners

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Out-of-Towners

Starring: Steve Martin, Goldie Hawn
Director: Sam Weisman
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 91 Minutes
Release Date: April 1999
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Anne Meara, Sandy Baron, Ann Prentiss, Graham Jarvis, Ron Carey, Philip Bruns, Carlos Montalban, Billy Dee Williams, Paul Dooley

Review by Greg King
2 stars out of 4

Neil Simon's 1970 comedy about a married couple from Ohio who experience a series of comic disasters during their first visit to New York City gets the '90's treatment in this largely unfunny and unnecessary remake.

Reunited for the first time since 1992's Housesitter, Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn work hard to recapture some of the chemistry and rapport. Martin brings his usual uptight persona and mannerisms to his performance as Henry Clarke, an advertising executive who heads off to New York for a job interview. At the last minute his bored and lonely wife Nancy (Hawn) decides to accompany him. The couple even run afoul of a supercilious, cross dressing hotel manager (John Cleese, of course!, whose performance suggests a tired trans-Atlantic Basil Fawlty). Through a series of increasingly frenetic disasters, the pair come to gradually rekindle that spark of adventure and excitement that has disappeared from their 24 year marriage.

Unfortunately, writer Marc Lawrence (who previously scripted the banal romantic comedy Forces Of Nature) strips away much of the neurotic tone from Simon's original script. He also dispenses with the sharp writing and the pithy one-liners that are almost trademark Simon. Instead, Lawrence opts for a rather formulaic and disappointing odd couple comedy that liberally draws upon elements of Planes, Trains And Automobiles and Fawlty Towers, amongst others. In fact, Martin even gets to play another car rental scene, albeit a rather laboured and pale copy of that classic hilarious moment from Planes, Trains, etc.

Martin gives another variation of his familiar straight laced, middle class white collar suburban dweller, although a few scenes do allow him some room for the kind of physical comedy at which he is adept. Hawn shines through, and works hard to make some preposterous material seem better than it actually is. Only Cleese seems to bring any energy to the film, and he is not on screen often enough.

There are some good moments throughout, but they are far and few between. For much of its duration, The Out-Of-Towners is a tired, laboured and unfunny comedy. And everyone involved, including veteran tv director Sam Weisman (George Of the Jungle, etc), seems to know it.

Copyright 1999 Greg King

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