Sometimes all you need for a few laughs is a mildly bizarre premise and a group of actors willing to completely humble themselves. Such is the case with Netflix’s (NFLX). The outer laws, a silly but fun heist comedy produced by Adam Sandler and directed by Tyler Spindel. The film, about a bank manager whose future in-laws turn out to be notorious bank robbers, leans largely on star Adam DeVine, who plays the delightfully ignorant Owen Browning, and on the charismatic pairing of Pierce Brosnan and Ellen Barkin dubbed the so-ghost bandits.
THE OUT LAWS ★★★ (3/4 stars)
The plot is ridiculous, but this is the kind of movie that is all about hilarious antics, not plausibility. Owen is the fussy manager of a local bank. He is engaged to Parker (Nina Dobrev), a yoga teacher. She hasn’t seen her parents, who she says are missionaries, in years, while Owen’s parents, played by Richard Kind and Julie Hagerty, have their own issues, including the constant mistaken belief that Parker is a stripper. As Parker and Owen’s wedding approaches, Parker’s parents, Billy and Lilly, suddenly appear out of nowhere. They claim to be in town for the marriage but in reality they are on the run from Rehan (Poorna Jagannathan), a criminal mastermind to whom they owe a considerable amount of money. Soon Lilly gets Owen drunk and spills the safe codes to his bank.
The ensuing story, in which Owen tries to prove his in-laws are the bank robbers and tries to evade the case’s investigator (Michael Rooker), is chaotic and at times ridiculous, but in the best possible way. DeVine goes all in as Owen, a man on the verge of losing his mind, and his manic energy generally works. Owen and Parker’s relationship is unusually sweet and the conflict is never between the two of them, which feels like a relief compared to other bickering comedies. And while this version of events may be amplified, who can’t relate to the awkward situations that arise when you meet the parents?
This movie, like many comedies, depends on miscommunication to keep the momentum going. If Owen Parker told his suspicions right after the bank is robbed, most of this story would never happen. But reality isn’t much of a concern to screenwriters Ben Zazove and Evan Turner and that’s okay. Sandler’s best films are those where it didn’t matter if anything could actually happen; what matters is whether what happened was funny. Here, the filmmakers are often, but not always, successful in getting the silly laugh (a bit with a miniature Doberman is so stupidly clever you can’t help but chuckle). And who cares if the humor is accessible if it is entertaining?
The outer laws maybe not for everyone, but two things are certain: DeVine has the potential to be a major comedic star and Brosnan needs more roles that don’t require him to play seriously. The rest is a welcome distraction for a Friday night at home.
Observer Reviews are regular reviews of new and notable movies.