If, years ago, you'd suggested to me the likes of Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller could handily outshine Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson in the same picture...well, I would've been far less than convinced.
Alas, that is very much the case in The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), the surprisingly pale latest film from writer/director Noah Baumbach.
In the film, Sandler and Stiller portray siblings Danny and Matthew who, alongside sister Jean (Elizabeth Marvel), are reconnected in advance of their sculptor father Harold (Dustin Hoffman)'s career retrospective on his work. Danny has inherited some of his dad's artistic talent but is poor. Matthew may not have an inventive bone in his body but is a successful and wealthy financial planner. Both are unhappy, as is the timid Jean, and Harold isn't much more jovial, especially after witnessing the grand success of an old friend (Judd Hirsch) who recently had his own art show. No surprise, a tragedy strikes that brings long-isolated forces together.
The Meyerowitz Stories isn't without its pleasures. Both Sandler and Stiller are really quite wonderful, the former in particular shining after all too many years attaching himself to cinematic dreck. Marvel is strong too, even if Jean feels terribly underwritten, and Candice Bergen shows up for a boffo cameo as Harold's third wife (and Matthew's mom) who regrets paying scant attention to Danny and Jean as they grew up.
The picture has been sold as a sort of cross between Woody Allen and Wes Anderson but Baumbach's proceedings hardly match the sharpness of either of those two filmmakers' work, even third-tier Allen or Anderson. The film, despite some great acting, is curiously uninvolving for the most part and I wasn't too fond of Hoffman's dreary, sad sack portrayal of Harold, nor Emma Thompson's turn as the sculptor's latest wife, a one-note hippie caricature that plays more like a SNL character than actual human being.
Fans of Sandler and Stiller ought to check this out but keep those expectations modest.