‘The Family Fang’ Doesn’t Have the Sharpest Bite

GameStop, Inc.

the-family-fang-001

A few years ago with his directorial debut Bad Words, Jason Bateman played to his strengths as a comedic actor. He played a smart guy that used a deadpan delivery for his profane insults to any and everybody that crossed his path. Whether you loved Bad Words or thought it merely passable (as I did), it was obvious that Bateman wasn’t really challenging himself aside directing a feature for the first time. For his follow up, Bateman is seriously challenging himself with The Family Fang, a comedy-drama hybrid that centers round a family of prankster performance artists. While The Family Fang certainly is strong directorial effort from Bateman, it’s lacking in the laughs necessary to elevate the material.

In the ‘70s and ‘80s the eponymous Fang family gains notoriety for their outlandish pranks that blur the line between reality and art for those not in on the gag, all of which are videotaped in the name of art. The first such of these pranks that we witness has the family’s patriarch Caleb (played in his younger years by Jason Butler Harner) rigging himself with his hidden camera and dressing as a security guard at a bank. The young boy, Baxter, goes to the teller window and slides a handwritten note to the teller asking for all the lollipops, brandishing a firearm when the teller only hands over one. The boy then fires his pistol at the security guard. In the wake, a bloodied body lies on the floor. The average bank customers look in terror and shock at the bleeding person before them, only to be even more surprised when then woman starts laughing. It is the matriarch of the Fang family, Camille (played in youth by Kathryn Hahn). Bateman shoots these scenes with a lower grade film stock, the color desaturated and the images grainy like a ‘70s film stock. There’ll be a few more outlandish scenes like these throughout The Family Fang, though not enough salvage the rather rote family drama that is to follow.

In the present, the two children of Caleb and Camille have distanced themselves from their prankster parents. Annie (Nicole Kidman) is an actress that is frequently found in the back pages of various tabloid rags, whether for her problems with alcohol or onset antics. Meanwhile, Baxter (Bateman) is a struggling writer. He’s written two books, one acclaimed and one divisive, and is stuck at an impasse in finishing his latest. On assignment for a bit of cash writing a story about potato guns, Baxter is shot in the ear doing a bit of potato-based William Tell. Unable to fly, Baxter is set to be picked up by his parents, a revelation that leaves him with revulsion. As a sign of solidarity, Annie agrees to meet Baxter at their parents’ home in upstate New York. While the children have moved on from their past as performance artists, Caleb and Camille (played in older age by Christopher Walken and Maryann Plunkett) desperately wants to relive the past with a whole new set of pranks, though none of them have their intended impact. Things soon take a turn for the stranger when Caleb and Camille go missing after a planned trip away. Of course, Baxter and Annie have suspicions that this may be another piece of performance art, but the police having found some of their blood at the scene suggests that they may have been the victims of foul play. Either way, it ain’t pretty.

The Family Fang sees Bateman really reaching to handle complex themes of parenting and questioning the nature of art, only to find that they’re just out of reach. Bateman does play with the viewer as well, employing a number of intriguing flashbacks of the Fangs’ pranks to mirror the events unfolding. But ultimately The Family Fang becomes a rather stale drama, one that is buoyed by the flashbacks of bizarre pranks. Unfortunately, these flashbacks are pretty much the only humor that can be found in The Family Fang. It’s incredibly odd how the film bases its premise on such a humorous foundation, only to completely turn its back on humor as the film delves into the larger complexities of its story.

In adapting the novel by Kevin Wilson, screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire renders the story to one of how parents screw up their children, even eccentric arty types. The problem is that when the movie becomes a mystery, it loses track of the parts that were working. For everything that Bateman and company get right, there’s just another aspect of The Family Fang that seems to have been lost in the transition onto the screen.

While not a bad movie, The Family Fang fails to live up to its own potential. What starts out as a wildly inventive movie eventually descends into a familiar family drama. Certainly well-acted and featuring some striking cinematography, it’s fun to see Jason Bateman take some serious leaps as a filmmaker. For all his noticeable improvements, Bateman attempts to buy off a bit more than he can chew with a story that might be too dense thematically to fit into a movie that runs under two hours. Falling short of an ambitious goal isn’t anything to shrug at, though. The Family Fang may miss the mark for the most part, but there’s enough going on here that I’m definitely interested in whatever Jason Bateman is directing next.

  • The Family Fang
3

Summary

Jason Bateman’s second directorial effort is more assured than his previous work, but fails to live up to its incredible promise.

Anytime Costumes

Leave a Reply

FanboyNation
Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
‘Sound of Hope’ is the Best of Humanity in a World Losing its Soul – Review

‘Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot‘ is the biopic...

‘Fancy Dance’ Tackles an Important Subject, Poorly – Review

Lily Gladstone’s incredible performance cannot save ‘Fancy Dance‘ from a mediocre...

‘Empire Queen’ Creative Team Talk New Fantasy Film – Interview

Co-Writers and Co-Directors, Chris Owens, Jason Schulz and Starlet Ciel Post...

Event News Event Reviews
‘Chess The Musical’ is a Product of its Times – Review

It is clear that, ‘Chess The Musical‘, was written through the...

‘The Old Man and the Old Moon’ at Mission San Juan Capistrano – News

‘The Old Man and the Old Moon‘ at Mission San Juan...

‘Holmes & Watson’ Solve the Case at the Laguna Playhouse – Review

Jeffrey Hatcher’s ‘Holmes & Watson‘, Enthralls Audiences in a Magnificent twist...

Automotives Football MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Oscar De La Hoya Partners with El Rey for ‘Friday Night Fights’ – Interview

The Golden Boy himself chatted with us about Golden Boy Promotions...

Olympic Runner Colleen Quigley ‘On The Road to Paris’

Team USA Olympic Runner, Colleen Quigley is On The Road to...

Paralympian Swimmer Ahalya Lettenberger On The Road to Paris

Team USA Paralympian Swimmer, Ahalya Lettenberger is On The Road to...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Fantoy Comics Presents – Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse: Blood on the cactus pt 3

Would you like to take a short survey for a chance...

Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse – Blood on the cactus pt 2?

Scone?

Fantoy Comics Presents – Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse! Blood on the cactus pt 1

It was really bloody, limbs hacked, heads torn off etc

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs & Sketches’ – Interview

Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs &...

Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her Career in the Arts

First Generation Assyrian-Chaldean, Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her...

Louden Swain Headlining Los Angeles Show at The Echo

Press Release – Louden Swain are headlining Los Angeles show at...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League Gameplay Trailer

The first Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League gameplay trailer was revealed during...

Wonder Woman Game
Wonder Woman Game Announced By DC and WB Games

Wonder Woman game will feature the iconic hero in a 3rd...

MultiVersus
MultiVersus brings Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny, and More

MultiVersus is bringing Shaggy, Harley Quinn, Jake, Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny,...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Billy Eddy Talks His new Book ‘Our New World of Adult Bullies’ – Interview

Lawyer, Mediator and Personality Expert Bill Eddy Provides a Six-Step Strategy...

Gary Morgenstein Talks ‘A Dugout to Peace’ the Final Installment of his Trilogy

Gary Morgenstein Talks About ‘A Dugout to Peace‘ the final installment...

Chris Clews Is ‘Raised on the 80s’ and Shares Those Life Lessons

Chris Clews was ‘Raised on the 80s‘ and Shares Those Life...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand Demo

The new ‘Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand‘ is ready to ship...

Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the ‘Good Flour’

Canadian Super Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the...

Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide
Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

The Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide is now available to help...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Episode 38: Hamid Rahmanian

Join Whitney Grace as she speaks with artist Hamid Rahmanian, who...

No Preview
Toon-In Talk Episode 37: Niki Smith

Whitney Grace interviews graphic novel writer and artist Niki Smith about...

Toon-In Talk Episode 36: Rob Paulsen

Rob Paulsen takes some time from his busy voice acting schedule...