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The Thing About My Folks

The Thing Is…

The thing about The Thing About My Folks is it's not a bad film, but it doesn't have enough humorous content to enable it to graduate beyond a purely average dramedy. Like a mediocre punchline, The Thing About My Folks elicits a few halfhearted laughs, but the joke is quickly forgotten once the laughs fade.

Sam Kleinman (Peter Falk) pays an unexpected visit to his son, Ben (Paul Reiser), and his family late one evening. Sam bears a disturbing note penned by his wife who apparently has left him after decades of presumed marital bliss. Ben breaks the news to his siblings who are (for reasons that never become totally clear) not surprised by their mother's departure.

Thus, the game is afoot to find Mom and keep Dad occupied during this stressful and confusing time. Naturally, the vaguely estranged son (Ben) is tasked with keeping Sam occupied while his other siblings frantically try to track down Mom. So Ben brings Sam along with him to check out a house in the New York countryside. This quality time in a confined space provides ample opportunity for the healing between father and son to begin.

The performances of the key actors are serviceable, but the only character that is really fleshed out in any substantive way is Sam. The problem with this is that everyone in the film behaves as if Sam is some sort of cantankerous bastard. So, it's somewhat unclear whether or not we're supposed to identify with him. The thing is…the other characters are not well developed enough to really form any kind of connection with them. They all just orbit around Sam.

Falk does a great job as the old codger, Sam. What's odd is why everyone behaves as if Sam is some kind of reprehensible character. While he's certainly stubborn and eccentric, he's a genuinely warm and interesting person who loves his family. His family's impatience with him doesn't jibe and actually makes them look a bit odd.

It seems that Reiser (who penned the script) couldn't decide on a drama or comedy, so the resultant film is one that contains not nearly enough laughs to keep one thoroughly entertained and a number of presumably poignant moments that feel forced and hollow. Are we supposed to laugh at Sam? Or hurl large, blunt objects at him? It's unclear on numerous occasions how we're supposed to feel.

The thing that really dooms The Thing About My Folks is a contrived resolution and a message that is so simplistic that it seems hardly worth making a film about it. The thing is….The Thing About My Folks barely warrants a matinee.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars