The Out-Laws (2023)
Director: Tyler Spindel
Screenwriters: Ben Zazove, Evan Turner
Starring: Adam DeVine, Nina Dobrev, Pierce Brosnan, Ellen Barkin, Lauren Lapkus, Poorna Jagannathan, Lil Rey Howery, Richard Kind, Julie Hagerty
When a film starts with the Happy Madison Productions logo card, we know what we’re about to get. 50 First Dates, Click, Grown Ups, take your pick. Everything they’ve done, with maybe the exception of 2022 basketball drama Hustle, is a light-hearted, inconsequential comedy that revolves around Adam Sandler, with a plot that appears to be reverse-engineered from its title. That’s not always a bad thing, there’s certainly a space for it in the vast reaches of filmmaking, but The Out-Laws is quite a bad example.
Adam DeVine plays Owen, the character that Adam Sandler usually would have played. He’s a loveable bumbling idiot who has somehow ended up in a job that requires a far more responsible person than he is. As a Bank Manager, he’s in charge of the safe and its voice-activated security system. The voice-activated security system exists for the sole purpose of a joke where Owen sings a Blink-182 song to it as a password again and again.
It’s his wedding weekend. His traditional parents (Richard Kind and Julie Hagerty) are unapproving of his yoga-teaching fiancé Parker, played by Nina Dobrev, and his soon-to-be in-laws (Pierce Brosnan and Ellen Barkin). The problem regarding The Out-Laws appearing to have been reverse-engineered from its title, is that we have to sit through so much set-up for a forgone conclusion that we’re already privy to.
As soon as we find out that Owen’s about to get new in-laws, its fairly obvious that they’ll turn out to be the out-laws. But we still have to go through the awkward introductions, Owen defending their aloof nature to his parents, and the standard “In-laws, eh?” humour that stand-up comedians have long since left behind. It all might have amounted to something that isn’t worth skipping if Owen went on to deduce that Parker’s parents were the out-laws all along in a way that felt anywhere near satisfying, but he essentially just recounts what we’ve just seen in the order we’ve just seen it.
The Out-Laws is so clearly an Adam Sandler vehicle in the same vein as almost every other Happy Madison production that it almost triggers an uncanny valley feeling to see Adam DeVine play the lead role. That’s not his fault, and the problem isn’t anything to do with his performance or comedic instincts, it’s just not his film despite being his film. Pierce Brosnan and Richard Kind do have some comedic potential as opposing in-laws, but The Out-Laws never really makes much use of it. Nina Dobrev, Ellen Barkin and Julie Hagerty unfortunately all fade into the background due to a screenplay that clearly isn’t bothered whether they’re all there or not.
What’s most emblematic of how far The Out-Laws misses by is the character of Tyree, played by Lil Rey Howard. Just by virtue of being Lil Rey Howard, he’s able to bring some relief to an otherwise dry and unsuccessful attempt at a family comedy, but he plays the exact same character as he did in Get Out. Obviously, with Get Out being a racially-charged horror that depicts some really rough stuff, it’s good to have a character that provides a space to decompress here and there. The Out-Laws really shouldn’t need the same character to do the same thing when it’s supposed to be a light-hearted comedy.
Unfortunately, there just isn’t much substance to The Out-Laws. It starts where it ends and it repeats itself on the way with very little to laugh at while we get there. It’s really just one in a long line of low-effort, low-stakes comedies that are designed for us to watch and quickly forget about, and that’s exactly what we’ll do.
Written by Rob Jones