The Thing About My Folks

The Thing About My Folks

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Paul Reiser is mad about Dad in The Thing About My Folks, an infuriatingly bad tale of father-son bonding in which the writer/comedian’s Ben Kleinman finds himself on a soul-searching road-trip in upstate New York with his old man Sam (Peter Falk), a talkative, talcum powder-loving pest who’s recently been left by his wife of 47 years. As a letter written by his mom decades earlier indicates, Ben’s mother always felt disappointed with Sam, an emotionally remote workaholic who never gave her the love and attention she craved. Yet as portrayed by Falk like a more gratingly geriatric version of Colombo, Sam is primarily unbearable because he’s an arrogant know-it-all prone to indulge in sub-Yogi Berra sayings (“You never know” is his favorite), endless jibber-jabber about what a good partner and provider he was, and random blasts of unfunny flatulence. Thus, he’s the perfect foil for the always-abrasive Reiser, who still seems convinced that his fretfully flustered routine is something more than second-rate Jerry Seinfeld shtick without the observations about everyday minutia. Raymond De Felitta’s cruddy-looking film wastes no opportunity putting the bickering Ben and Sam in awkward situations in which they must either act like chummy best friends (such as at a baseball game where both disgustingly gawk at, and Falk rubs his crotch up against, a pretty young thing) or like the type of overly sentimental mushmen who—by talking about their feelings and marriages as if they were Dr. Phil guests—would, in real life, be respected by neither women nor men. Finally able to spend time with his pop, Ben convinces Sam to go fly-fishing, toss back a few brews, and lie on their backs together during a night of camping, searching for the Big Dipper, as they realize not only just how similar they really are, but also how much they love each other. As far as this manipulative melodrama is concerned, Ben is ultimately redeemed for past spousal sins for no reason other than because he’s squinty-eyed, gravel-throated Peter Falk, and because the film can’t stand to end on anything less than a diabetes-producing sweet note. Factor in two separate scenes in which three-way telephone calling is mined for (non-existent) laughs, and it becomes clear that the real thing about The Thing About My Folks is that, like Falk’s trifecta of farts, it stinks.

98 min
Raymond De Felitta
Paul Reiser
Peter Falk, Paul Reiser, Olympia Dukakis, Elizabeth Perkins, Mackenzie Connolly, Lydia Jordan, Ann Dowd, Claire Beckman, Mimi Lieber