The Thing About My Folks
directed by Raymond De Felitta
written by Paul Reiser
starting Paul Reiser, Peter Falk, Elizabeth Perkins, Olympia Dukakis
The Thing About My Folks feels like a beginner wrote it. In fact, the film’s screenplay is the first from comedian Paul Reiser, though he could hardly be considered a complete novice having spent the last 20 years writing routines, books, a hit sitcom and (oddly enough) a CG-animated Popeye video. Yet there is nothing remarkable about his feature debut to attest to and fit in with his estimable career.
The script follows the bonding road trip of Ben Kleinman (Reiser) and his father Sam (Falk) as they analyze each other’s marriage after Sam’s wife (Dukakis) abruptly leaves without reason. The jaunt begins on a rough note as the elder Kleinman ruins his son’s plan of buying a dream house in the country. On the way home Ben crashes his car into a tree then sparks a heated argument about Sam’s worth as a husband and father. But once they decide to extend the outing and partake in such male rituals as fishing and baseball, they clear sail through enough sociable experiences to establish a new rapport as is only possible. Except for one humorous moment where Sam talks girls with Ben, the entire second act could have been one short montage, with a sequence in which they actually double date with some new lady friends omitted, perhaps.
Regardless of how conventional the story, one would think a movie written by a comedian would be quite funny, as Woody Allen and Mel Brooks made the transition quite famously. The Thing About My Folks isn’t even as funny as either’s worst efforts. The same old jokes and stereotypes involving a Jewish father and son seem like they’ve been around since the dawn of Judaism, and the fact that its three biggest laughs come from three separate instances where Sam farts should give an idea of how unfunny the film is.