“The Out-Laws” – Should be outlawed [MOVIE REVIEW]

Adam Devine as Owen Browning, Nina Dobrev as Parker McDermott. Photo credit: Scott Yamano, courtesy of Netflix ©2023

“The Out-Laws,” conceived by Evan Turner and developed by Turner and Adam Devine as a starring vehicle for Devine, started out as a pretty good idea. Straight-arrow bank manager Owen is about to be married to Parker and is thrilled to discover that her long absent parents will actually be coming to the wedding. That they are unconventional is the least you can say. Their back-stories as anthropologists who have been living in inaccessible South American jungles don’t hold up all that well. But then Owen’s parents shouldn’t be calling the kettle black. 

Maybe Owen’s parents were right. When Owen’s bank is robbed by the elusive “Ghost Bandits,” a sinking feeling sets in. He’s been robbed by his in-laws who used inside information he divulged after a night of excessive drinking. Following them in his car, he discovers that there is a super villain, Rehan, controlling them. When Rehan kidnaps Parker, Owen must join forces with his outlaw inlaws. 

As a concept, there was promise, certainly enough for Adam Sandler’s production company Happy Madison to sign on. But the concept never gelled into an actual script. The dialogue is dreadful, the acting is overly broad and the jokes are juvenile. They believe they have made a farce instead of making a farce out of everything. Calling this film awful is an insult to all the other awful movies out there. 

High concept, or in this case low concept, ideas are hard to pull off. In order to succeed, there needs to be a tight script, some credible premise that goes awry, and comedy that is organic to the plot. Focussing just on the comedy, the jokes are bad, repetitive and usually full of body part references that are gross and not very funny.

Pierce Brosnan as Billy, Adam DeVine as Owen, Ellen Barkin as Lilly, Nina Dobrev as Parker. Photo credit Scott Yamano, courtesy of Netflix © 2023.

Based on his other credits, director Tyler Spindel is punching above his weight. Tasked with bringing believability to unbelievable situations is difficult for experienced comedy directors. He is not one of them. It seems that he allowed the inmates, I mean actors, to run the asylum when, in the case of a concept that never resulted in a coherent script, they needed careful direction to execute the timing necessary for the slapstick he was aiming for. It brings to mind the old Woody Allen quote: “Right now it’s only a notion, but I think I can get the money to make it into a concept, and later turn it into an idea.”

The cast is what attracted me to the film in the first place. Adam Devine as Owen, is an actor who can be charming, effectively wide-eyed and innocent and very funny. His Owen, charmingly geeky, veers from law-abiding to criminal unconvincingly. Nina Dobrev as Parker has been given nothing to do so her role as a catalyst for action is perfunctory. She and Devine lacked the chemistry necessary to propel the action. 

Richard Kind and Julie Hagerty as Owen’s parents, Neil and Margie, try very hard and almost succeed as the polar opposites to Parker’s parents. The running joke is their, or at least Margie’s proclivity to attend orgies. Rounding out the family fun are Pierce Brosnan and Ellen Barkin as Parker’s parents Billy and Lilly. Brosnan gets to use his native Irish accent (although why would be a good question because it’s not organic to the character) and wave guns in the air. There are forced references to James Bond, but he never seemed completely at home with his character so didn’t quite know how to deliver. The only time I’ve ever seen him more uncomfortable was in “Mamma Mia!” trying to sing. 

Interestingly, Ellen Barkin, Lilly, knew exactly what she was doing and who she was. Unlike all of the others, she played it without a wink-wink. She owned her character and should have been a model for the others. She intrinsically knew that no matter what the situation, no matter how bad the dialogue, you live that part for better or for worse. My admiration for her increased substantially because she built a platform where none existed. 

On a positive note, at least at 95 minutes, the movie’s not long.

Streaming on Netflix on July 7. 


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