The worst thing a film can be is boring. Keep all the philosophising aside about cinema always having to be some kind of high art form; the failure to entertain is the biggest sin a film can make. It can be low-brow, high-brow, mid-bottom, anything but a snoozefest, and that is exactly what Tyler Spindel’s latest offering on Netflix, The Out-Laws, is.
The other credit to Spindel’s name is the cringe comedy The Wrong Missy, released on Netflix in 2020. This is not to dismiss Spindel’s abilities as a director. You never know where the next Craig Mazin is honing his skills. After all, Mazin went from making inane comedies like Superhero Movie and Scary Movie to Chernobyl and The Last of Us in what seemed like a few short breaths. However, Spindel’s latest exhalation does not have us holding our breath for the next feature.
This action comedy, The Out-Laws, written by Evan Turner and Ben Zazove, and produced by Adam Sandler, Adam DeVine, and Allen Covert, misses out on any big laughs despite DeVine trying to put a good foot forward. It doesn’t help that the other characters in his life are such scrappy messes. Pierce Brosnan, of course, has oodles of natural charisma and brings some of it on board. Just not enough to elevate The Out-Laws to be anything more than a mindless weekend watch.
The film begins with DeVine’s bank-managing Owen chalking out his fantasy wedding guestlist, consisting of Skeletor, Medusa, and Chewbacca, among a bunch of other figurines that visually drive home the point that Owen is a nerd. He casts himself as He-Man and his fiancée, Parker (played by Nina Dobrev, who is hardly given any material to work with) as the Pink Power Ranger. This is one of the many coded gendered “jokes” in the film.
Parker is a yoga instructor and is regularly mistaken by her would-be in-laws to be a stripper, a tired joke repeatedly revisited. At which point, it feels like The Out-Laws is your drunk, unfunny uncle who will keep repeating his misfired clunker at every family gathering till someone cracks an awkward smile to set him free.
The film follows the young bank manager who is about to marry the love of his life whom he met after the dullest meet-cute in cinematic history. On their wedding week, the bride’s parents finally RSVP and in comes the McDermotts, Billy and Lilly—named as if they were Muppets, played by Brosnan and Ellen Barkin. Soon enough, Owen’s bank is robbed by the ‘Ghost Bandits’, and he suspects his future in-laws. The fact that his bestie Tyree’s character is played by Lil Rey Howery (who was also in Get Out) should have been his first clue, though, that his in-laws are up to no good.
We also have Yondu from Guardians of the Galaxy playing a kooky FBI agent. Poorna Jagannathan plays a mob boss with a weird Russian accent, lots of tiny dogs and a shark tank, which, sadly enough, we never get to see. It would’ve been a fun throwback to the 1980s Hindi crime thriller era when Kulbhushan Kharbanda’s sinisterly bald supervillain Shakaal had his lair fitted with his very own nightmare Jaws feature.
Julie Hagerty’s Margie and Richard Kind’s Neil, Owen’s parents, go from calling Parker a stripper to revealing how they would actively participate in orgies in their young days. DeVine’s long-time collaborator and Workaholics co-star Blake Anderson also makes an appearance, along with Lauren Lapkus, whose character Phoebe King gets off on her bank’s security system.
After a sleepy start, the film picks up the pace when it leaves the tepid Meet the Parents arena and enters into heist comedy territory, but is unable to sustain the velocity for long. While it seems intentional to have the initial meeting between Owen and his in-laws be deliberately uneventful to set up the more thrilling bank heist plotline that follows, it isn’t executed with any novelty.
There is even the classic Quentin Tarantino homage, with a low-angle trunk shot that is immediately followed by gunfire, violence, and comedic squealing from DeVine.
On paper, The Out-Laws had a fun budding idea going for it. This paint-by-numbers formulaic comedy had enough zany morsels to make it more than a time-pass watch but doesn’t manage to string along a more coherent experience. There is a sum total of 10 to 15 minutes of fun there somewhere. Of course, none of this means that Netflix isn’t already plotting a sequel or that The Out-Laws won’t shoot right up through its top ten charts.
You can catch The Out-Laws on Netflix.