The Out-of-Towners (1999)
Directed by Sam Weisman
Cast: Steve Martin, Goldie Hawn, John Cleese, Mark McKinney, Christopher Durang, Mo Gaffney.
1999 90 minutes
Rated: (for profanity and sex-related humor).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, April 4, 1999.
Based on the 1970 comedy written by Neil Simon and starring Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis, the '90s update of "The Out-of-Towners" contains the same basic plot, but comparisons pretty much end right there. Although the film doesn't have what it takes to pull over to the side of comic brilliance, the movie is fast-paced and enjoyable enough, aided by the dynamite duo of Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn.
Unhappy Ohio suburbanites Henry (Martin) and Nancy Clark (Hawn) are suffering through separate mid-life crisises. While Henry is harboring the secret that he has been laid off from his job and is about to travel to New York City to be interviewed for a high-profile advertising position, Nancy is depressed because all of their adult children have finally left the nest and her relationship with Henry has seriously dwindled. On the spur of the moment, Nancy decides to accompany Henry on his trip, and that is the start of a wild, dangerous, and crazy 24-hour period of hijinx in the city that never sleeps. It's pretty safe to say that almost every outrageous thing that could happen does happen.
"The Out-of-Towners" has two things going for it and, walking into the theater, you knew that at least one of them couldn't fail (the partnering of Martin and Hawn). Martin is one of the great modern-day comedians (as far as I'm concerned, he is funnier than all of the recent ones, like Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler), while Hawn is always a bright and winning presence. Since they both have perfect comic timing, many of the jokes were bound not to fail, and there are many that are downright hilarious (on the other hand, a few fall flat). One of the scenes that gave me the loudest laugh was when Nancy is reading the map to Henry as they are driving to the city. "You know this upcoming exit?" Nancy asks. Henry immediately turns off onto the exit. "Well, keep going past that," Nancy continues. Very funny. And how about the sequence where they accidentally walk in on a sexaholics anonymous meeting within a church and get caught up within the group discussion. These delightful moments are also thanks to the second reason the film is an overall successful venture, and that is Marc Lawrence's slight, but constantly snappy screenplay.
In a memorable supporting role, John Cleese plays the manager of a ritzy New York hotel who gets involved in the couple's plight and is discovered later on by Nancy dancing around a hotel room in women's clothes and stiletto high heels. Cleese has some subtly amusing moments, particularly one in which, while in the hotel's lobby, he stops for a second to admire a customer's outfit. Meanwhile, mayor Rudy Giuliani appears in a cameo and could have been used to fabulously zany effect in one of the film's key scenes, but is wasted and thrown to the wayside.
Inevitably, through all of the various mishaps that occur, Henry and Nancy start to come to terms with their marriage and begin to fall in love with each other all over again. It may very well be predictable (and it is), but it is the high energy of Martin and Hawn that keeps this light-as-a-feather comedy afloat. I hope they work together again real soon.
©1999 by Dustin Putman