The Thing About My Folks

Nicely calibrated performances by Peter Falk and writer-producer Paul Reiser make this broad, sentimental comedy about the yawning gulf between loving fathers and sons more palatable than the average "very special" sitcom episode. The youngest of four children and the only boy, Ben Kleinman (Reiser) has been butting heads with his hardheaded, perpetually...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Nicely calibrated performances by Peter Falk and writer-producer Paul Reiser make this broad, sentimental comedy about the yawning gulf between loving fathers and sons more palatable than the average "very special" sitcom episode. The youngest of four children and the only boy, Ben Kleinman (Reiser) has been butting heads with his hardheaded, perpetually kvetching father, Sam (Falk), for as long as he can remember. Now married and the father of two little girls (Lydia Jordan, Mackenzie Connolly), Ben is surprised and suspicious when his dad shows up at their Manhattan apartment one evening, unannounced and maddeningly vague about the reason for his visit. While Ben puts the children to bed, his wife, Rachel (Elizabeth Perkins), gets the truth out of dad: Muriel (Olympia Dukakis), his wife of 47 years, has left him. While Rachel and Ben's sisters — Linda (Ann Dowd), Bonnie (Mimi Lieber) and Hillary (Claire Beckman) — put their heads together and try to figure out where Murial could have gone and why, after putting up with Sam's eccentricities for all these years, she suddenly up and left, Ben takes his dad on a visit to the country. Specifically, they pay a visit to the country property Ben and Rachel are thinking of buying before the blunt Sam manages to offend the owner so thoroughly that he wouldn't sell his family seat to Ben if Ben were the last man on earth. Between the botched deal and the car accident they have a few minutes later, you'd think the last thing Sam and Ben would wind up doing is taking a father-son road trip. But that's exactly what happens: With Ben's car crumpled into undrivability, Sam impulsively buys a vintage Ford from a local mechanic and the two of them take off, visiting roadhouses, buying newly picked peaches from fruit stands, fishing, going to a farm-team baseball game and airing a lifetime's worth of grievances. By the time Murial's secret has been uncovered, Sam and Ben have discovered things they never knew about each other and have cleared up festering misunderstandings. If only Reiser or director Raymond De Felitta had been able to resist the fart jokes and the sloppy male-bonding scenes, this could have been a terrific little movie. As it is, it's shamelessly manipulative shtick brightened by sharply drawn supporting performances — Lauren Bittner and Alison Fraser stand out in the parts of mother and daughter good-time gals.

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: Nicely calibrated performances by Peter Falk and writer-producer Paul Reiser make this broad, sentimental comedy about the yawning gulf between loving fathers and sons more palatable than the average "very special" sitcom episode. The youngest of four chil… (more)

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