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'Out-of-Towners': A Bad Trip

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 2, 1999

  Movie Critic

The Out0of-Towners
Travel is trying for Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn in "The Out-of-Towners." (Paramount)

Sam Weisman
Steve Martin;
Goldie Hawn;
Mark McKinney;
John Cleese;
Gregory Jbara;
Philip Johnson
Running Time:
1 hour, 30 minutes
Contains profanity, off-color humor and accidental drug use
What is this Hollywood mania for unnecessary remakes of popular old movies and television shows? Is it simply a lack of imagination? Pure, naked greed? Artistic sadism? Or some unwholesome combination of the three?

I've said this so many times before – about "City of Angels," "The Avengers," "The Parent Trap," "Psycho" and now "The Out-of-Towners" that I sound like a broken record.

A what?

You know, a CD with a skip in it . . . a vocal sample from a Fatboy Slim dance track.


There was absolutely no reason to make a new version of the 1970 comedy about a naive Ohio couple adrift in Manhattan. By the way, the new version – replete with jokes about masturbation, adult diapers, sex organs and transvestites – bears only cursory resemblance to the Neil Simon-scripted original.

As George and Gwen Kellerman, Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis were deliriously funny as their midwestern reserve became progressively more frazzled and frayed during a disastrous trip to the Big Apple. As cool cukes Henry and Nancy Clark, Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn barely break a sweat, develop five o'clock shadow or suffer a hair out of place – even though they encounter lost luggage, a missed train, an over-heated rental car, a mugging, a tapped-out credit card, the world's slowest Rottweiler and police horses, plus a snotty, cross-dressing hotel manager (John Cleese, doing his unlevel, high-heeled best to save this misbegotten venture).

Their dismay is so forced, so faux, it's painful to watch.

What happened to Hawn and Martin? In fairness, the normally daffy duo is not given much to work with in this lame adaptation from screenwriter Marc Lawrence ("Forces of Nature") and director Sam Weisman ("George of the Jungle"). Hawn does get to do a pratfall in impractical shoes and drive a car into a crate of fish (how stale is that?), and Martin cranks up his stoned act when he inadvertently takes a hallucinogen in jail (although he just ends up doing a third-rate Robin Williams impression).

The supporting cast fares better, which in addition to Cleese includes wonderful and too brief cameos from Christopher Durang and Mo Gaffney as paranoid New Yorkers, Mark McKinney as a randy Hollywood agent and Mayor Rudy Giuliani as his grimacing self.

Hey, take what you can get.

Okay, I also cracked a smile during a scene in which an airport cleaning lady in search of Mrs. Clark pulls the wrong wife out of the restroom. Look, I told you I was desperate.

Here's the ultimate irony of this new and unimproved product: Henry Clark is in New York for a job interview with an ad agency seeking a "creative director." Too bad the movie itself never filled that opening.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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