Director: David O. Russell
Nobody does discomfort better than Ben Stiller—whether he’s teaching Robert De Niro the secret of “Puff The Magic Dragon” in Meet The Parents or getting even with deadbeat dad Gene Hackman in The Royal Tenenbaums, Ben Stiller is the master at conveying the inner squirm in all of us when faced with situations in which we do not wish to be. In Flirting With Disaster, David O. Russell’s hilarious contemporary mesh of classic screwball comedic dialogue, eccentric characters and anything goes attitude with freewheelin’ 1970’s American road films, Stiller portrays scientist Mel Coplin, an adult so neurotic that he’s unable to choose a name for his four month old son, much to the annoyance of his patient wife Patricia Arquette (playing mousy rather than sexy for a change). Believing that tracking down his original parents who had given him up for adoption many years earlier will give Mel a better sense of self, Mel enlists the help of seductive, former dancer turned adoption counselor Tea Leoni and informs his adoptive parents (George Segal and Mary Tyler Moore) that he’s on a mission to California. The journey leads Mel, his wife and the counselor on a series of dead ends, including misunderstandings, odd encounters with increasingly bizarre (yet hilariously memorable) personalities and misinformation that gets more twisted as the film continues in a way that seems like a throwback to not only Bringing Up Baby but the entire career of Preston Sturges (with a much more contemporary, adult 90’s screenplay that speaks bluntly about some pretty blush-worthy topics). The film is even funnier on repeat viewings with an impressive number of layers upon layers of jokes that often sink in minutes (or even days) after the first viewing and Flirting With Disaster is a great movie to watch with friends to share in not only the laughter, of course, but also Stiller’s classic discomfort.