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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 Rob Gonsalves

"Dysfunctional comedy; great moments throughout."
4 stars

'Flirting with Disaster' starts off with a Republican-friendly unit -- successful husband, pretty wife, adorable newborn son -- and proceeds to trash every possible familial concept.

Clearly, this theme is close to David O. Russell's jaded heart. His previous film, Spanking the Monkey, was a jet-black comedy about an ailing mom who seduces her hapless college-age son. Yet for all his cynicism, Russell doesn't hate his characters. He sees them as deeply confused human beings whose struggles to preserve family unity are in direct proportion to their inability to do so. His scripts are also rude and profane, which is a big plus.

Flirting with Disaster follows yuppie Mel (Ben Stiller), his wife Nancy (Patricia Arquette), and their unnamed baby on a quest across America. Mel, whose new fatherhood has rattled him, thinks that finding his biological parents will give him a better idea of "who he is." His overbearing adoptive parents (Mary Tyler Moore and George Segal, both hilarious) think it's a stupid idea, and the movie keeps proving them right.

Mel and Nancy are guided, more or less, by a woman from the adoption agency -- Tina (Téa Leoni), one of those people whose confident façade hides the fact that they have no idea what they're doing. Tina leads the couple to one false parent after another, and this section of the movie gets a little elitist; we're meant to be mortified by the idea that a Reagan-worshipping woman or a scruffy truck driver could be Mel's real parents. Then Mel and company arrive in Arizona, where they finally meet the real McCoys -- Alan Alda and Lily Tomlin, who quickly take over the movie. Playing these ex-hippies (who still drop acid and have their own pharmacological lab in the cellar), the comedy veterans work together so smoothly that Flirting with Disaster would be worth seeing just for their scenes, even if the rest of the movie were junk.

Fortunately, it isn't. David O. Russell has a sharp ear for satirical dialogue, and he loves to put his characters in the kinds of horrific, embarrassing situations that make you hide your face even as you're laughing. Like The Birdcage, Flirting with Disaster is a farce -- a machine that rolls slowly but surely into chaos. It also rolls right over such things as logic and credibility, but that's the nature of farce. Usually, some lesson emerges from the wreckage. Here, as in Spanking the Monkey, it's that the imperfect family unit itself isn't nearly as destructive as the expectations we attach to it. The pain and comedy of families lie in the distance between the ideal and the reality.

In his cheerfully twisted way, Russell is making the healthiest, sanest comedies around -- entertainment for the whole dysfunctional family.

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originally posted: 01/21/07 11:53:18
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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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