The anguish of the prosperous is the toughest sell in movies, and "The Thing About My Folks" doesn't close the deal.
Paul Reiser's look at an emotional tiff in an extremely upscale, otherwise mostly problem-free Manhattan family is treacly and manipulative and, if occasionally funny, more often annoying. Reiser -- writer, star, executive producer -- looks at the difficulties stalking the family Kleinman, of New York, New York, the town so nice they named it twice. Actually, the Kleinmans are so nice, maybe they should have been named twice.
Son Ben (Reiser) is a writer who lives in a large, beautiful West Side apartment with perky wife (Elizabeth Perkins) and three daughters. His father Sam (Peter Falk) is some kind of Jersey carpet king, who can buy a restored 1940 Ford convertible on a whim, with a Visa card. The crisis ensues when Ben's dad shows up one night, much befuddled. It seems that mom of 40 plus years has left (she turns out to be Olympia Dukakis, but that revelation is still an hour and a half away). Thus son and dad go on a road trip, ostensibly to investigate a farmhouse Ben is thinking of buying, and most of the film follows Ben and Sam "bonding" -- bopping around Upstate New York, eating peaches, going to minor league baseball games.
Alas, every character is an idealization, every lesson a homily, every incident preposterous. The fight in the bar was especially ludicrous. Lord. Reiser's narcissistic mythologizing makes us thank our stars for the gimlet-eyed genius of Jerry Seinfeld.
-- Stephen Hunter