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The Thing About My Folks Review

By Shawn McKenzie 10/01/2005

I haven’t really thought about Paul Reiser much since his hit NBC show “Mad About You” left the air in 1999.  I know that he did a few movies in the meantime, but none of them did much for his career.  With his theatrical writing debut The Thing About My Folks, he might have a reason to get back on my personal radar.

Ben Kleinman (Reiser) is a New York writer who has a loving, supportive wife in Rachel (Elizabeth Perkins) and two adorable daughters, Lilly (Mackenzie Connolly) and Mia (Lydia Jordan.)  One night, as they are putting the girls to bed, his father Sam (Peter Falk) drops by.  He tells Ben that his wife and Ben’s mother Muriel (Olympia Dukakis) has left him after 47 years of marriage, with only a vague note left behind.  They don’t know where she has gone, so Ben calls his three younger sisters, Linda (Ann Dowd), Hillary (Claire Beckman), and Bonnie (Mimi Lieber), to ask them if they have seen Muriel.  They all haven’t, but they all quickly try to locate her, and Sam stays the night.  The next day, Ben and Sam drive to look at a house in upstate New York that Ben is thinking of buying.  When they get there, Sam talks to Mr. Harrison (Bernie McInerney), the owner of the house, about the sewer system.  Ben ultimately decides not to buy the house, but during the ride back, he gets angry with Sam finding fault in everything, and he accidentally crashes his car.  The reason why Ben crashed his car was that he was reaching back to find a letter he had brought with him that he wanted Sam to read.  It was written by Muriel (Catherine Taormina, Muriel as a young woman; Rachel Robinson is the voice of the young Muriel) two weeks before Ben’s birth, but it was never sent.  Sam reads it, and he is furious.  It seems that Muriel wasn’t happy living with a young Sam (Rich Duva, Sam as a young man), who spent so many hours at his business, Crown Carpet, that he never had any time for his family.  She had apparently decided to settle, and that’s why she never sent the letter, but her strange disappearance might be her finally being fed up with Sam once and for all.  After the tow truck driver (Marshall Efron) tows Ben’s car to his shop, Sam decides to buy a 1936 Ford Deluxe, the car that he had wanted as a young man.  It begins a road trip that takes them to several destinations in order for Ben and Sam to bond for the first time.  They attempt to go fishing, which bores both of them.  They take in a local baseball game, where they accidentally bother a player named Ramone Asquincella (Michael Duvert) and check out a young hottie (Lauren Bittner) at the game.  Later that night, they go to a bar, where they get into a fight with a bully (Adam Mucci) and the bully’s friend (Craig Pattison) over a pool game wager.  After that, they dance with the hottie from the game and the hottie’s equally hot mother (Alison Fraser) to the tune of Tim McGraw’s “I Like It, I Love It.”  They all sit around and drink, where Ben and Sam get into a big argument.  Things are revealed, forever changing their feelings for one another.

Reiser picked Oscar-nominated Raymond De Felitta to direct the movie, but this is Reiser’s show.  Reiser and Falk are the only actors in the movie that receive any attention.  For two men with many women in their lives, the actresses in the movie don’t get much screen time.  With the overpowering presence of the men, the women don’t get to shine.

Therefore, since it is Reiser’s show, and Falk is definitely his only co-star, they bring a lot of chemistry to the movie.  Most of the nuances come from Falk, who seems to prefer slathering himself with talcum powder and is a surprising pool hall fighter.  Unfortunately, he also has a habit of farting frequently, and I’ve never found fart jokes funny (except when heard in “South Park” for some reason.)  Reiser essentially plays the same Paul Buchman character from “Mad About You,” only with more cursing in his dialogue, but it is still funny.

Reiser’s The Thing About My Folks is a good writing debut for the comic actor who loosely based the story on his own parents.  It was touching, and it almost made me wish that I could connect more with my own dad as well.  Maybe someday I will.

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