As a rule straight-to-video films are just plain garbage. Now I don't mean the Independent or Foreign films that fail to get a wide release. I mean the straight-to-video `should have aired on television' type movies. So, it's safe to say that when my wife picked up this little ditty out of the bargain bin and said "hey, lets get this one, it looks funny" my face contorted like I was sucking on something sour and my head started shaking in the `no' direction. I had never heard of it. I had never seen an advertisement. It had big stars in it and when you couple big stars with no advertisement that only can mean one thing...those stars are ashamed of the movie. But, who can resist a bargain, so `Relative Strangers' became mine and a few hours later my wife and I were sitting on the sofa in our living room laughing hysterically. Yes, `Relative Strangers' was quite the bargain.
The film circles around psychologist Richard Clayton. His life is going wonderfully. He's getting married to a beautiful woman, he's extremely successful and his brother Mitch is extremely jealous, and so he spills his family's dirty laundry. Richard is adopted. Feeling betrayed Richard decides to track down his birth parents expecting to find upper class educated people to justify his talent and success but instead he finds the last people on the face of the earth he'd want to be related to...carnies.
Frank and Agnes Menure (pronounced like cow poop) are outspoken, unmannered and embarrassing, especially to someone of Richard's social standing. With that said Richard spends his time finding every reason imaginable to hate them, to blame them for everything that goes wrong in his life. But all Frank and Agnes do is love their boy and this becomes very aware to Richard's fiancée Ellen. The Menure's may not be the upper class heroes Richard expected, but they are kind hearted and loving people (beneath that harsh exterior) and he just needs to give them a chance.
The film is predictable, but it is, above all else, hysterical. I've always been a huge fan of Kathy Bates, I mean the woman can play anything. I prefer her funny, and here she is undeniable the funniest in the bunch. Couple her with Danny DeVito and you have a comedic team made in Hollywood heaven. Their banter back and forth is purely delightful since they have a very strong comedic chemistry with one another. Ron Livingston serves his purpose as Richard. He was better suited in `Office Space' and comes off a little over the top here, but he works fine and doesn't take away from the film. Christine Baranski is priceless as Richard's adoptive mother Arleen, and Edward Herrmann is also great as his adoptive father Doug. Beverly D'Angelo shines as Ellen's mother Angela, and Neve Campbell herself is delightful as Ellen.
Where is she by the way? I miss my Neve fix!
Don't be a stranger (I can't believe I'm this corny) to `Relative Strangers', a film that took me by surprise in its ability to scratch my funny bone. I absolutely loved this adorable little film and am sure that you will too. So give it a shot, hunt it down, buy it and enjoy every laugh filled minute.