Netflix's The Out-Laws gives the comedy genre a bad name
Despite the fact that dramas are the films most often honored by the Oscars, comedies are much harder to achieve on a high level. A script can be very funny, but if it’s not delivered by the right performers, it won’t work. On the flip side, actors can be funny on their own, but if they’re paired with bad material, the results can be disastrous.
A prime example of good actors with a bad script is the atrocious The Out-Laws, a Netflix movie that has a decent premise but filmmakers who have no idea how to execute it. Owen Browning (Adam Devine) and Parker McDermott (Nina Dobrev) are getting married, and Owen is going to meet Parker’s parents, Lilly and Billy (Ellen Barkin and Pierce Brosnan), for the first time when they come into town for the wedding.
Soon after they meet, though, the bank where Owen works as a manager is robbed, and – due to clues too stupid to get into here – he highly suspects his future in-laws are the bank robbers. The remainder of the film is a hodge-podge of contrived situations involving Owen, Parker, Lilly, Billy, Neil and Margie Browning (Richard Kind and Julie Hagerty), crime boss Rehan (Poorna Jagannathan), and more.
The film, co-produced by Adam Sandler with about a tenth of his films’ usual production level, goes off the rails almost immediately. Director Tyler Spindel and co-writers Evan Turner and Ben Zazove set up the premise poorly, introducing Lilly and Billy almost out of nowhere, and then saddling them with unnecessary scenes that do nothing to enhance the plot. Some situations are slightly amusing, but the filmmakers never aim higher than that low level.
They also choose to make the film R-rated, not for any organic reasons, but in order to get cheap, cynical laughs. They give multiple characters random raunchy lines that are either completely at odds with their previous personalities or apropos of nothing, an approach that seems designed to get shock laughter out of the audience. Instead, the delivery of these lines weighs the film down, only serving to highlight how bad the rest of it is.
Inexplicably, the filmmakers also try to turn the film into an action comedy in the third act, forgetting that they don’t have anywhere near the budget to pull off those type of scenes in a fun and believable way. The CGI they try to employ is laughable (and not in a good way), and the fight choreography lacks any excitement whatsoever.
Devine, best known from the TV show Workaholics and the Pitch Perfect series, is the only reason the film succeeds in any way, shape, or form. Dobrev is completely miscast, as she has zero chemistry with Devine either romantically or comedically. Barkin and Brosnan play intimidating figures well, but they fail to elevate the material in any meaningful way. Lil Rel Howery, who has a small part as a security guard, deserves a better spotlight.
It’s no wonder that that comedy genre can no longer be expected to draw big audiences if movies like The Out-Laws are the ones being offered up. Even by the already-low standards of the constantly-churning Netflix machine, this movie has almost no redeeming value at all.
The Out-Laws is now streaming on Netflix.