Roger Ebert Home

The Out-Laws

"The Out-Laws," about a blithering schmuck (Adam DeVine) who gets tangled up with his fiancee's secret-bank-robber parents (Pierce Brosnan and Ellen Barkin), would be skippable even if it didn't have the rotten timing to debut a week after the death of the great Alan Arkin, one of the stars of the "The In-Laws," a movie that this new film incompetently tries to channel. Nearly every aspect of this feature from Tyler Spindel, formerly a second unit director for Adam Sandler's Happy Madison Productions, is derivative and desperate and, at the same time, bizarrely pleased with itself. 

Devine's character, Owen Browning, is a bank manager, despite being so cloddish and lacking in judgment or impulse control that it's hard to imagine him being trusted to take a bag of garbage to the curb. His fiancee Parker (Nina Dobrev), is a yoga instructor everyone in Owen's family inexplicably thinks is a stripper. She's pleasant and conventionally attractive, but just quirky enough not to come across as bland or dull. She seems stable and mature. We never understand why she'd be with a guy like Owen, who freaks out at the most minor things, obsesses over action figures and pop culture trivia, and can't overcome the urge to blurt out any thought that pops into his head, no matter how inappropriate or insulting. This sort of dynamic is the movie equivalent of the TV sitcom formula where an irritating, clueless, selfish man-child somehow ends up married to a beautiful saint.

Neither Owen nor his parents (Julie Hagerty and Richard Kind) have ever met Parker's parents, Billy and Lilly, whose cover story is that they're globetrotting anthropologists who've been in the Amazon for many years studying the Yanomami tribe. To their everlasting regret, Billy and Lilly do the meet-the-in-laws thing. Owen spills enough details about his job to guarantee a robbery and an investigation because Billy and Lilly need a lot of cash fast, and Owen makes it easy for them to raise it. The story is effectively over halfway through the film's running time but insists on continuing, serving up theoretically madcap but mostly repetitive retreads of things that happened in the first half, but with more car chases and "twists" and shooting and yelling. 

The cast is as impressive as its efforts are futile. Besides Brosnan, Barkin, Kind, and Hagerty, "The Out-Laws" features Poorna Jagannathan as Billy and Lilly's deranged money launderer; Michael Rooker as an alcoholic FBI agent who wears a straw boater hat in lieu of genuine eccentricity; and Lil Rel Howery as the hero's excitable, shout-y best friend, a type who's been imported straight from "Get Out." "The Out-Laws" does this sort of thing a lot, compulsively reminding you of better films you could be watching instead, from the "Ocean's" pictures and "Heat" to "Die Hard" (a snippet of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony plays when Owen gets to see the inside of the most sophisticated bank vault in town). The title even boasts a grammatically unnecessary hyphen to ensure you know which classic provided its core DNA.

Overqualified bit players show up, goof around a bit, and disappear. All have been delightful presences elsewhere. This film gives them next to nothing to work with. They're kneecapped by the sloppy, improv-y mucking about that's become the default mainstream Hollywood comedy mode since the '90s. There are two credited screenwriters, Evan Turner and Ben Zazove. One would assume or perhaps hope that they contributed the occasional line that has personality and seems tied to the psychology of one of the characters (as when Margie insists, "I always knew they were criminals ... They drink during the day"). 

But it's hard to tell, and in the end, who cares? Half-assed doesn't describe this movie. It's quarter-assed at best. It plays like a workshop filmed in full dress on lit and decorated sets. Characters blurt sentences that are not only nonsensical but are barely connected to the story, while the other characters in the scene labor to "top" them or else "react" by wincing or huffing or making a "Wow, that's weird; why would anyone say something like that?" face. Devine's mugging is nonstop and barely modulated. The movie is shot in the wide CinemaScope ratio for no discernible reason other than to reassure viewers that they're watching "cinema" rather than 40 YouTube sketches strung end-to-end.  

There's a solid tradition of droll but hard-edged slapstick comedies of the type that this film wants to evoke. It stretches from "The In-Laws" through "Midnight Run" and "The Freshman" through "Central Intelligence" and "Game Night." But the worst five seconds of any of these is better than the best moment in "The Out-Laws." Imagine the most irritating DreamWorks animated comedy that could exist with humans instead of animals or creatures and done in live-action. You won't have to imagine very hard because there's a scene in "The Out-Laws" where a robber wears a Shrek mask. Of course, he tries to do the character's Scottish accent. And, of course, he asks one of his colleagues if he did the accent well or sounded Irish. Watch "The In-Laws" instead.  

Now playing on Netflix. 

Matt Zoller Seitz

Matt Zoller Seitz is the Editor at Large of RogerEbert.com, TV critic for New York Magazine and Vulture.com, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism.

Now playing

Back to Black
You Can't Run Forever
Arcadian
The Blue Angels
Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

Film Credits

The Out-Laws movie poster

The Out-Laws (2023)

Rated R for language throughout, violence, sexual material and brief drug use.

95 minutes

Cast

Pierce Brosnan as Billy McDermott

Adam DeVine as Owen Browning

Nina Dobrev as Parker McDermott

Ellen Barkin as Lilly McDermott

Lauren Lapkus as Phoebe King

Poorna Jagannathan as Rehan

Julie Hagerty as Margie Browning

Lil Rel Howery as Tyree

Blake Anderson as Cousin RJ

Michael Rooker as Agent Oldham

Richard Kind as Neil Browning

Reyn Doi as Babayan

Director

Writer

Cinematographer

Editor

Composer

Latest blog posts

Comments

comments powered by Disqus