Ben Stiller as Mel Coplin
Patricia Arquette as Nancy Coplin
Téa Leoni as Tina
Alan Alda as Richard Schlichting
Mary Tyler Moore as Mrs. Coplin
George Segal as Mr. Coplin
Lily Tomlin as Mary Schlichting
Josh Brolin as Tony
Richard Jenkins as Paul
Celia Weston as Valerie Swaney
Glenn Fitzgerald as Lonnie Schlichting
Beth Ostrosky as Jane
Cynthia Lamontagne as Sandra
David Patrick Kelly as Fritz Boudreau
John Ford Noonan as Mitch
Widescreen (1.85:1) Enhanced for 16×9 Television
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Running Time: 93 Minutes
As Mel Coplin starts a new family with his wife, he feels the need to find his birth parents in order to make his life complete. With the help of a disorganized but attractive psychologist student named Tina, he tracks his biological mother down in California. After informing his neurotic adoptive parents of his plans to reunite with his birth mother, he heads out to meet her with Tina, his wife Nancy, and his young son. However, Mel finds that tracking down his biological parents is going to be much more difficult than he expected. Even worse, he’ll find many unexpected surprises along the way.
Flirting with Disaster is rated R for language, sexuality, and a comic drug scene.
Even if you’re a fan of Ben Stiller, chances are you haven’t seen his 1996 film Flirting with Disaster. It was written and directed by David O. Russell, the man behind Three Kings and Spanking The Monkey. The film features an all star cast including favorites like Alan Alda, Lily Tomlin, Mary Tyler Moore, Tea Leoni, George Segal, and more.
Ben Stiller plays his typical character the guy who proves Murphy’s Law is alive and well. Everything that could go wrong for this guy does go wrong. Every time he finds someone who he thinks is his birth parent, he latches on to them (no matter how different or repulsive they are) only to find out they’re not his real parent. And when he finally does find them, they have an unexpected surprise in store for him which will make him wish he never looked into his past. (I won’t spoil the surprise here.) As you can imagine, putting Stiller’s character through hell offers up many potential comic moments. It’s a formula that has worked for him for many years.
The quirky comedy is helped by the excellent cast. Mary Tyler Moore plays Mel’s mom, a character unlike any she’s played before. Worrying, annoying, and outspoken, she’s quite an individual and it quickly becomes apparent that she’s the reason why Mel is desperate to find out about his birth parents. And if you ever wanted to see Mary Tyler Moore lift her top, this movie is or you. It’s quite a shocking moment. Lily Tomlin and Alan Alda really steal the show late in the film as Mel’s real parents. They initially appear to be down to earth and quite conservative, and it’s a misconception that makes their real personalities all the more shocking and funny. Other supporting cast members include Josh Brolin as Tony and Richard Jenkins as Paul. They are federal agents who join Mel on his quest. Their surprise hidden side ends up offering a number of laughs in the film. A scene where Jenkins accidentally gets stoned also offers up some bizarre and amusing imagery.
Flirting with Disaster also has a pretty good soundtrack to back it up. There are also a wide variety of locations that act as good backdrops. They include New York, San Diego, New Mexico, and more.
If you’re a fan of any of the actors in this film or if you enjoy a good comedy, then Flirting with Disaster is good for a few laughs. While the movie does fizzle a little towards the end, there are enough good moments to make it worth checking out. It’s not a classic, but it’s an interesting footnote in Ben Stiller’s filmography.
There are a few extras included in this Collector’s Edition DVD:
Deleted scenes There are three deleted scenes included on this DVD. One shows Mel’s father and mother stuck in jail with some criminals. Another shows Mel meeting Tina for the first time. It also happens to establish better that she’s scatterbrained and unorganized. The final deleted scene features Mel’s wife Nancy trying to find a way to spice up their sex life.
Outtakes There are quite a few bloopers and outtakes included in this feature. They show everything from line flubs to spit takes. They’re always fun to see and this one is no exception.
Original featurette This is a brief “making of” feature that shows all of the cast and writer / director David O. Russell.
The Bottom Line:
While this probably isn’t a film worth adding to your DVD collection, it may be worth picking up at the video store if you find yourself interested by it. Fans of Ben Stiller, Lily Tomlin, Tea Leoni, and Patricia Arquette should enjoy it quite a bit.