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A sexy comedy pleases the wife. Mrs. Worsted went from chuckles to guffaws and then to cuddles. For me, that experience alone was well worth wading through the bungles and downturns of this 92-minute comedy, Flirting with Disaster.
Flirting tells the tale of Mel Coplin (Ben Stiller), the adopted son of clueless George Segal and dangerously neurotic (but still attractive) Mary Tyler Moore. As do some adopted children, Mel feels the need to meet his progenitors in order to feel a sense of groundedness and closure in his life--especially now that his wife and he have a child, four months old and still nameless.
George and Mary fly into paroxysms of jealousy and confusion, but Tina Kalb (Tea Leoni) supports the young couple in their quest. She's an adoption counselor, doing a study on the psychological impacts of such reunions. Actually, she's a student counselor, and as you might expect from a comedy, her work has a generous share of catastrophic mistakes. It also turns out that the sexy counselor had been a "dancer." What kind of dancer is left to the viewer to safely assume. We're not talking about ballet, okay. As you might expect from a sexy comedy, she offers up leggy temptation to Stiller and helps drive a wedge between him and the highly cute Patricia Arquette, his film-wife.
Fun is had as the film takes a picaresque turn. The trio first flies to San Diego where Stiller has a wrestling accident with Leoni and destroys his birth-mother's knick-knack collection only to find out that she's not really his birth mother, but that this is just the first of many boo-boos on the part of the dancer/counselor.
The next lead takes the trio to Michigan--or Minnesota--anyway, somewhere snowy. Here, Stiller gets into trouble with another person who turns out not be related to him. Nice of the writers to use this joke twice for double the laughs!
This time, Stiller does more than destroy a lifetime's supply of spun glass. He's arrested, and at the police station, a young cop comes in to assist his hardened older partner in the interrogation room--only to find out that the perp's wife is--oh my God!--an old high-school flame! Yes, the cop and Patricia Arquette were once sittin' in the proverbial tree. Another wedge in the happy marriage? You bet. And you bet your sweet bippie that we're either headed for a tough break-up or a happy ending. Which do you think it will be? Let's just hope there's fun along the way!
The cop cannot see them staying in a bad motel and insists that they at least have dinner with him. The wife now has someone to flirt with too, and she casually invites the old beau and his partner on the next leg of their journey--to New Mexico.
Well, they take her up on it, which comes as a shock to Stiller. But at last, they meet up with his real parents, the winning Alan Alda and, one of my favorite people, Lily Tomlin. These two, it turns out, are Haight/Ashbury burn-outs, now living in drug-addled solitude with their disturbed son. Disturbed Son tries to slip his new sibling/rival some window pane, but the cop gets it instead. The cop is seriously tripping. Then, to add confusion to comedy, Papa George Segal and Mama Mary Moore show up in car identical to the one the young marrieds came in. Wacky mix-ups ensue involving these cars, drugs, wild escapes, a crash, and sex. And like many sexy comedies, all gets sorted out in the morning with clean, peaceful, feel-good results.
Stiller delivers some funny, cynical lines throughout and shows his versatility as an actor by suddenly jumping into a sincere monologue at the end. I personally wouldn't believe his "I can change 'cos I really love you" routine, but I'm not as free from guile as Arquette's character. Also, I'll never forget Saddam Hussein's song in South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut. That's made me cynical for life!
In all, you can dally with this film with impunity, and if your mood is light going into it, you should have a pretty nice time with it, almost in spite of the many times you may find yourself saying, "My God, that is so mid-to-late-90's!"
©1999 by Randy Shandis Enterprises. All rights happily reserved.