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With Jim Sabatini

The Family Fang

The Family Fang
Jason Bateman, Nicole Kidman, Christopher Walken and Maryann Plunkett

Rated: R for some language.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: May 6, 2016 Released by: Starz Digital Media

Jason Bateman's follow-up to his boldly amusing Bad Words is the more stodgy dysfunctional family tale The Family Fang.

It's not that his talent behind the camera has really diminished or was a fluke, but it doesn't really coalesce well with the not so far-reaching screenplay from playwright David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole) in what appears to cobble elements from The Savages and Running On Empty.

Bateman (fine in The Gift)  and Nicole Kidman (Secret In Their Eyes - 2015, Paddington) are siblings Baxter and Annie who have hit tough times in their careers - his as a celebrated writer and hers as an acclaimed actress. They're forced after an accident to deal with their estranged parents - Caleb and Camille Fang - played with some wild and woolly verve by Christopher Walken and Maryann Plunkett.

The background from Lindsay-Abaire surrounds the parents having Baxter and Annie as an integral part of their 'performance art' -which could be considered an edgier version of  Candid Camera'or, for today's YouTube generation, MTV's Punk'd.  Hence a familial schism ensued, but the grown-up, scarred children have to face up to their past. But, Bateman can't generate much interest from how the story pivots from the curious unexpected disappearance of the parents and subsequent investigation.

Perhaps Fang can be chocked up as the ole' sophomore jinx, especially as the second half loses any momentum whatsoever from a set-up that as ludicrous as it appears still had a modicum of viability to impel it convincingly forward. Even if Bateman and Kidman aren't really that great together on-screen his cynicism still matches well enough with her likability and penchant to struggle in comedic situations. The drama that unfolds really drags Family down into excessive leisure when it comes to scene segueing leaving the long-ago impressionably quirky scenarios most memorable in what need more tender sure-handedness.

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