Sometimes all you need for a few laughs is a mildly outlandish premise and a group of actors willing to completely humiliate themselves. That’s the case with Netflix (NFLX)’s The Out-Laws, a silly-but-fun heist comedy produced by Adam Sandler and directed by Tyler Spindel. The film, about a bank manager whose future in-laws turn out to be notorious bank robbers, relies largely on star Adam DeVine, who plays the delightfully clueless Owen Browning, and on the charismatic pairing of Pierce Brosnan and Ellen Barkin as the so-called Ghost Bandits.
THE OUT-LAWS ★★★ (3/4 stars)
The plot is ludicrous, but this is the sort of film where it’s about hilarious antics not plausibility. Owen is the fastidious manager of a local bank. He’s engaged to Parker (Nina Dobrev), a yoga teacher. She hasn’t seen her parents, who she believes are missionaries, in years, while Owen’s parents, played by Richard Kind and Julie Hagerty, have some issues of their own—including the ongoing mistaken-belief that Parker is a stripper. As Parker and Owen’s wedding approaches, Parker’s parents, Billy and Lilly, suddenly appear out of nowhere. They claim to be in town for the nuptials, but they’re actually on the run from Rehan (Poorna Jagannathan), a criminal mastermind to whom they owe a considerable amount of money. Soon, Lilly is getting Owen drunk and he’s spilling the vault codes to his bank.
The ensuing story, which involves Owen trying to prove his in-laws are the bank robbers and trying to evade the case’s investigator (Michael Rooker), is chaotic and sometimes ridiculous, but in the best way possible. DeVine goes all in as Owen, a man teetering on the edge of losing his mind, and his manic energy generally works. The relationship between Owen and Parker is unusually sweet and the conflict is never between the two of them, which feels like a relief when compared with other bickering comedies. And while this version of events might be heightened, who can’t relate to the uncomfortable situations that ensue when you meet the parents?
This movie, like a lot of comedies, hinges on miscommunication to keep the plot’s momentum. If Owen just told Parker about his suspicions right away after the bank gets robbed, most of this story would never happen. But reality isn’t really a concern for screenwriters Ben Zazove and Evan Turner and that’s okay. Sandler’s best movies are the ones where it didn’t matter whether something could actually happen; what matters is whether what did happen was funny. Here, the filmmakers are often, but not always, successful at getting the dumb laughs (one bit involving a miniature Doberman is so stupidly clever you can’t help by chuckle). And who cares if the humor is low-brow if it’s entertaining?
The Out-Laws may not be for everyone, but two things are for sure: DeVine has the potential to be a major comedy star and Brosnan needs more roles where he doesn’t have to play serious. The rest is a welcome distraction for a Friday night at home.
Observer Reviews are regular assessments of new and noteworthy cinema.