Courtesy Photo
*1/2 stars 91 minutes | Rated: PG-13
Opened: Friday, April 2, 1999
Directed by Sam Weisman

Starring Steve Martin, Goldie Hawn & John Cleese


Maybe in three years when this movie is on the Superstation, it might be worth leaving on in the background while you clean the house - pausing for the John Cleese scenes - but otherwise it's a complete waste of time.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 9/21/99

Liberties taken with 'Out-of-Towners' remake leave it languishing in loserville

By Rob Blackwelder

How someone can take a screenplay by Neil Simon and turn it into a movie as bad as this Steve Martin-Goldie Hawn remake of "The Out-of-Towners" is beyond my cognitive capacities.

I wouldn't qualify Simon as a literary genius, but he is funny. The original "Out-of-Towners," a passable country mouse in the big city comedy which he wrote, starred Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis as a pair of Ohio rubes having a Murphy's Law vacation in the Big Apple while Lemmon sweats a big-time job interview. It was good for a jaded, yet wholesome, laugh.

In this remake, Martin and Hawn are Sandusky Volvo-ites with empty nest syndrome, also venturing to New York for ad man Martin's big shot at Madison Avenue. But their Manhattan misadventures have been liberally re-written by Marc Lawrence ("Forces of Nature") to include not only the Simon-inspired loss of their luggage and eviction from their hotel, but also the couple's stumbling into a Mastrubator's Anonymous meeting and accidentally dropping acid while in jail for indecent exposure.

Sure, that sounds funny, especially when you picture Martin acting out a bad hallucinogenic trip. But the sad thing is, even the slapstick flops in this sorry dud.

Steve Martin has, in recent years, allowed his screen persona to become such a sitcom dad that his trademark antics now seem trite -- watered down for mass consumption and set as they are against a soundtrack of dreadful, intrusive easy-listening arrangements.

Goldie Hawn can still cry funnier than any actor alive -- and does here more than once -- but she has adapted this image as the patron saint of middle-aged women trying to hang on to their youth, and that image seems to usurp any roll she plays these days.

This movie has that same comedy forced into poignancy aroma that haunted all the giggles in "The First Wives Club," but "The Out-of-Towners" doesn't even have those giggles, and it often falls back on 20th generation schtick like the old revolving door gag. Who doesn't know this joke?

The movie's one saving grace is that when it does occasionally turn away from its soft-focused central characters in mid-town mid-life crises, the focus shift to John Cleese, who plays a cross-dressing hotel manager who snarks around in his wealthy guests furs and Ferragamos. Now that's funny.


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