Producers: Adam Sandler, Adam DeVine and Allen Covert Director: Tyler Spindel Screenplay: Ben Zazove and Evan Turner Cast: Adam DeVine, Nina Dobrev, Ellen Barkin, Pierce Brosnan, Michael Rooker, Poorna Jagannathan, Julie Hagerty, Richard Kind, Blake Anderson, Lauren Lapkus, Lil Rel Howery, Dean Winters, Laci Mosley and Daniel Andrew Jablons Distributor: Netflix
Just when the many tributes to the late Alan Arkin have been remembering the brilliance of Andrew Bergman’s “The In-Laws” (1979), in which Arkin and Peter Falk made a classic pair, Netflix dumps into our homes a comedy with a title reversing Bergman’s. “The Out-Laws” is the opposite of “The In-Laws” in another respect as well: it’s just about as bad as Bergman’s picture was good.
Made by Adam Sandler’s production company, the movie’s designed as a starring vehicle for Adam DeVine, and unfortunately he dominates it, commandeering virtually every scene with a desperate neediness to prove how funny he is. There are amusing moments in the movie, but they invariably come on occasions when he surrenders control and allows someone else to briefly shine. Such occasions are rare, and then only sometimes bring laughs, depending on who the “someone else” is.
DeVine plays Owen Browning, a nebbishy manager at a small bank where his underlings Tyree (Lil Rel Howery, doing a bad imitation of a screaming Kevin Hart) and Marsol (Laci Mosley, almost as annoying) are constantly belittling him. Somehow—he eventually explains the process at length, in a riotously dull monologue—Owen has gotten engaged to spunky yoga instructor Parker McDermott (Nina Dobrev), whom his ditzy parents Neil and Margie (Richard Kind and Julie Hagerty), insist on referring to as a stripper. Kind and Hagerty are two of the supporting cast who regularly get laughs, largely because of their practiced comic timing, even with the inferior material they’re provided with by Ben Zazove and Evan Turner (even they can’t save an awful bit involving recollection of an orgy with Dan Marino).
Parker’s parents Billy and Lilly (Pierce Brosnan and Ellen Barkin) aren’t expected to attend the wedding, but they show up at the last moment and prove surprisingly scary. In fact they’re a couple of infamous bank robbers, and begin their relationship with their hapless son-in-law-to-be by inducing the sap to reveal the details of his bank’s security system and then robbing it. They then persuade him to rob other banks in order to secure the ransom of Parker, who’s been kidnapped by Rehan (Poorna Jagannathan, sporting a hideous accent), an old colleague of theirs to whom they owe money. Brosnan and Barkin are the other co-stars who elicit some chuckles with their tougher-than-thou attitude, Brosnan especially milking the comic snarls.
But Kind, Hagerty, Brosnan and Barkin aren’t allowed to work their magic for long, because inevitably the spotlight always is pulled back to DeVine, who hogs even a long bank-heist sequence in which he’s improbably wearing a Shrek mask, leading to a frantically tasteless one in which he drives an armored truck through a cemetery, knocking over gravestones willy-nilly and pushing a casket into a grave while forcing mourners out of the way. (Compare the genuinely hilarious similar scene in Bryan Forbes’s “The Wrong Box,” which demonstrates how scale and wit can make such material work where sheer noise and chaos cannot.)
Moreover, most of the other supporting players are as irritating as DeVine. Michael Rooker’s turn as a broken-down FBI agent who’s devoted his life to catching Brosnan and Barkin proves that comedy isn’t his forte, while Blake Anderson is like fingernails on a blackboard every time he makes an appearance as Owen’s cousin. Lauren Lapkus is pleasantly deadpan as the manager of a larger bank who’s contemptuous of Owen; her underplaying is an oasis of calm in the frenetic closing reel.
With a glossy production design by Jon Billington and overbright cinematography by Michael Bonvillain, “The Out-Laws” has a sitcom look, and the editing by Ian Kzesborn and Phillip Kimsey is as lazy as Tyler Spindel’s direction. Rupert Gregson-Williams’ music matches the visuals, which is no compliment.
Adam Sandler’s comedies—both those starring himself and the ones showcasing his pals—have always been pretty dim, like their lead characters. This one fits that pattern. Good moments from some of the supporting players in this frantically unfunny farce only highlight the inadequacy of the overeager DeVine as a comic leading man.