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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 36%
Average: 8%
Pretty Bad: 2%
Total Crap: 2%

4 reviews, 26 user ratings

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Flirting with Disaster
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by Scott Weinberg

"One of the most uncomfortably hilarious movies you'll ever see."
5 stars

Say what you will about Ben Stiller, but the guy at least shows up in one excellent indie film in between his stupider multiplex flicks.

If you're tempted to dismiss Mr. Stiller's comedic skills by pointing to flaccid farces like Envy, Along Came Polly, Duplex, keep in mind that the guy delivered some seriously solid chuckles in movies like There's Something About Mary, Zoolander and Dodgeball, plus he's participated in a few fantastic experiments like Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums and David O. Russell's brilliant Flirting with Disaster. While most comic actors are content to shovel out the chaff, Stiller consistently treks back to indie-ville and generally presents something quite special.

And Flirting with Disaster, now eight years after its theatrical release, still ranks among the finest films that Ben's been associated with. By far. It's a simple, hysterical and painfully personal comedy about a likable schnook named Ben Caplin who, along with his wife, his infant son, and a well-meaning social worker, heads off on an elaborate trek to find his birth parents. This news proves quite distressing to Ben's adopted parents, as played by the hysterically overwrought George Segal and Mary Tyler Moore.

The first few stops on Ben's journey result in some truly arcane dead ends, as the nobly-intentioned Tina (Tea Leoni) keeps getting her wires crossed. The travellers end up in the houses of several bizarre strangers, nearly all of whom prove to have precisely zero relation to young Mr. Caplin. This stuff is almost painfully funny, but Flirting with Disaster kicks into true brilliance once the crew manages to locate Ben's true parents - as played by Lily Tomlin and Alan Alda! Toss in a couple of homosexual policemen who become bosom buddies with Ben and his wife, and you're looking at a comedy that has about seven more funny characters than do most American comedies.

David O. Russell's second film (after Spanking the Monkey and prior to Three Kings) is uproariously funny in a distinctly discomforting fashion. When Ben accidentally shatters the figurine collection of a woman who ultimately proves to be a total stranger, you cringe through the laughter because the humor comes from a real place. A real and hilariously painful place. Boasting one of the best comedy ensembles of the past ten years, Russell gives everyone ample chance to make with the chuckles, and the laughs are evenly distributed to the quartet of elder comedians. Stiller also offers some supremely satisfying work, as do Patricia Arquette (as Ben's long-suffering yet understanding wife), Tea Leoni (offering her best movie work to date) and character actor Richard Jenkins as a hilariously insecure policeman.

Much of Flirting with Disaster consists of humor both discomforting and profane in nature, and that's a good thing indeed. Avoiding the safety of the PC blanket, David Russell has crafted a canny, crafty and altogether adorable little misfit of a movie. It's weird, it's kinda dark and you'll never be able to predict the next sequence.

Toss in a whole lot of laughs, and the result is a truly original comedy that you'll soon be pushing on friends and family

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originally posted: 07/02/04 10:44:13
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User Comments

3/20/12 RLan Its okay, but its not a movie I'm going to remember for long. 3 stars
1/14/08 mb Big names but movie has no substance or worth. 2 stars
10/21/06 AnnieG You will find yourself trying to explain this film to others and not being able to. 3 stars
7/13/06 Agent Sands A very plain, quirky-but-earthy comedy. 4 stars
8/02/05 tatum A bunch of people screaming at each other for 90 mins 1 stars
5/25/05 Jake Hilarious! 5 stars
2/14/05 Jeff Anderson An original & brilliant comedy! All the actors are brilliant, but Leoni's REALLY STOOD OUT! 5 stars
8/15/04 R.W. Welch Not a lot of zip to it but a few chuckles here and there. 3 stars
7/21/04 April Gupton love it 5 stars
7/09/04 J Cadiramen Bizarre... funny, but for all the wrong reasons. 3 stars
4/17/03 mr. Pink Hilarious sometimes, but not THAT good. 4 stars
9/02/02 movie guy GREAT 5 stars
8/11/02 karen goldstein freakin funny movie - entire cast awesome!!! 5 stars
7/07/02 The Bomb 69 wow, this movie was all over the place, but in the end it made sense 4 stars
6/20/01 Phil M. Afficianado When it's this wacky, it's going to be a real treat or a total disaster. A+ entertainment. 5 stars
2/13/01 Jake One of the funniest, most enjoyable films I've seen. 5 stars
2/06/01 Classcidog F__ing funny 5 stars
6/08/00 Elvisfan Funny as anything and very well cast; Jenkins & Brolin were esp. great 5 stars
6/27/99 Ed Wood see it - you'll laugh your ass off - what a cast! 5 stars
4/15/99 Jon Jackson FUNNY! 5 stars
4/12/99 Alonzo ( Funny movie. It's the one that made me started noticing Ben Stiller's talent 5 stars
9/26/98 Maegs A good understated comedy. 4 stars
9/16/98 Chuck-D I wish I knew why so few npeople liked it. It was incredibly done. Funny as hell 5 stars
9/15/98 Negative Creep Stiller at his Best Too bad no one noticed 4 stars
9/15/98 Badass Funny shit. Tea Leoni- arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! 5 stars
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  22-Mar-1996 (R)
  DVD: 01-Jun-2004



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