The latest Netflix film from Happy Madison is an unfunny blend of action and comedy featuring solid turns by Pierce Brosnan and Ellen Barkin.
Plot: Owen Browning is a straight-laced bank manager about to marry the love of his life, Parker. When his bank is held up by the infamous Ghost Bandits during his wedding week, he believes his future in-laws who just arrived in town, are the infamous Out-Laws.
Review: There are few winners in this late phase of the Streaming Wars as accomplished as Adam Sandler. The former SNL funnyman went from box office superstar to a lucrative contract with Netflix, resulting in dozens of mediocre movies and very few good ones. Even when not starring in the films, Happy Madison Productions has released films of a similar ilk which are funny enough for ambient viewing but not nearly good enough for the big screen. The latest Happy Madison movie, The Out-Laws, starring Adam Devine as an average guy whose future in-laws are notorious bank robbers played by Pierce Brosnan and Ellen Barkin. While Brosnan and Barkin are far above the material here, they are one of the lone highlights of the desperately uneven The Out-Laws.
Adam Devine has made a career out of playing a particularly goofy character. Whether lovable (Modern Family, The Righteous Gemstones) or douchey (Pitch Perfect, Workaholics), Devine has crafted a persona that fits within the type of comedy Happy Madison is known for. Throughout this film, Adam Devine vacillates between playing a toned-down version of what we have come to expect from him and hitting the nail on the head with silly and broad comedy that struggles to be funny, Here, he plays Owen, a bank manager and vanilla personality who has landed the gorgeous Parker (Nina Dobrev). On the eve of their wedding, Owen finally meets Parker’s elusive parents, Billy (Pierce Brosnan) and Lily (Ellen Barkin). The supercool couple like getting tattoos and skydiving, which conflicts with Owen’s penchant for crafting and going to museums. When Owen realizes that Parker’s parents are expert thieves, it changes the dynamic of their relationship entirely.
While The Out-Laws clocks in at just over ninety minutes, it takes over half of that running time before the movie becomes bearably funny. For the first hour, the film presents the cool McDermotts opposite the nebbish dorkiness of Owen and makes us wonder how he landed a smoke show like Parker. Even Owen’s parents, played by the hilarious Richard Kind and Julie Hagerty, are taken aback by the cool Billy and Lily. Only when Owen’s bank is robbed does he suspect his future in-laws to be the notorious Ghost Bandits. Once Billy and Lily’s former partner and overall psycho Rehan (Poorna Jagannathan) enters the story, the movie picks up momentum and becomes even slightly funny. For an hour, The Out-Laws relies on random jokes, vomit, and mocking Adam Devine to stretch for laughs. Once the action kicks in, the movie finally gains some traction.
hat is very apparent in this movie is just how good Pierce Brosnan and Ellen Barkin still are as actors. Aside from one well-timed James Bond joke, the bulk of this movie has the two veteran actors playing their roles relatively straight. There is an element of parental concern over their daughter marrying a guy like Owen, but much of their performance hinges on their persona as bank robbers. To that end, they come off as entertaining characters. Nina Dobrev does well in her brief screen time as the daughter who has no idea of her parents’ true career. Still, the real highlights in this film are Poona Jagannathan as the unhinged villain Rehan, the always great Michael Rooker as the FBI agent hunting the Ghost Bandits, as well as a funny turn by Lauren Lapkus as rival bank manager Phoebe King. Everyone seems to enjoy the material, but the film struggles to deliver consistent laughs when it plays as a romantic comedy. Once it shifts into action mode, the material becomes more consistent, but this only lasts for the film’s last half hour.
Written by Ben Turner and Ben Zazove (Sherlock Gnomes), The Out-Laws comes from veteran Happy Madison director Tyler Spindell who helmed Father of the Year and The Wrong Missy. While The Out-Laws does not feature any of the standard players from Adam Sandler’s troupe of performers, the cast is the best part of this movie. Adam Devine, who often can be a little too much to handle on-screen, shows promise when he is not mugging for the camera here. I wish he would get a more natural role to play as he comes across as genuine rarely in movies like this. Having actors the caliber of Pierce Brosnan and Ellen Barkin elevates this material but nowhere nearly enough to salvage the uneven mix of genre tropes and tired humor. Even the very funny Lil Rel Howery and Laci Mosley can only do so much when the movie is determined to showcase Adam Devine looking shocked or confused for ninety consecutive minutes.
The Out-Laws is yet another concept with potential that ends up being soured by too much juvenile humor and not enough originality. There are glimmers peppered into this movie that had me laughing, including a shockingly inappropriate car chase through a cemetery in such poor taste that I could not help but chuckle. The humor is decidedly more mature than many recent Happy Madison films, and the R rating allows for some truly gross jokes. Had this been given a bit more effort in the script department, The Out-Laws could have been something much better. If you are determined to check this one out, you will enjoy Brosnan and Barkin and will laugh here and there, but overall this is another lackluster Netflix original.