Fred Wolf and Peter Gaulke have a calling for slacker comedy, though their sense of humour hasn’t been well-received. They collaborated on Happy Madison’s Strange Wilderness, and while that film is pitiful, it’s also exactly what it set out to be – a scrappy stoner comedy conceived by a crew of people who must’ve been on heavy hallucinogens during the making-of. In that sense, it finds success as a guilty pleasure that willingly goes in some weird directions.
The duo return as screenwriters, with Wolf taking directorial duties, on Drunk Parents. Their latest project is a “sophisticated” comedy featuring affluent characters doing terrible things in acts of desperation. It plays by the same rules of a dopey stoner comedy, but weed is swapped out for aged wine as the plot device.
After dropping their daughter off at her new college, Frank (Alec Baldwin) and Nancy (Salma Hayek) find themselves in hot water the morning after a night of drinking – they’ve posted their neighbour’s vacant house online for people to rent. Strapped for cash, the sheepish couple allows the house to be rented by Carl (Jim Gaffigan), who we later find out is a registered sex offender. This error in judgement is the initial nudge towards a domino effect that has Frank and Nancy dealing with fellow fat cats, thugs, deranged children, and nosy homeless people.
The comedy in Drunk Parents feels insufficient, and I believe the cast should take partial blame. Wolf works best with actors who, essentially, have nothing to lose and will dive head-first into ridiculous situations. Despite Drunk Parents having a stacked cast (which also stars Ben Platt, Treat Williams, Joe Manganiello, Colin Quinn, and Will Ferrell), most of the actors appear hesitant to play the same game as the filmmakers. Baldwin and Hayek are the only performers who attempt to sink into the silliness. Baldwin is essentially replaying his Jack Donaghy role from TV’s 30 Rock except in an R-rated element, which is a good failsafe, but its Hayek who throws caution to the wind as an outrageous trophy wife. Too bad the filmmakers squander her ability to be a good sport and, instead, have her scream, shout, and curse throughout the movie.
When the stakes are low and the cast is whittled down to a few featured key players, Drunk Parents is efficient. It doesn’t always pay off, but the occasions I did laugh share this common script-and-screen factor. But, unfortunately, Drunk Parents is an uncontrollable movie that is more interested in quantity than quality. Wolf and Gaulke ultimately sink their own ship by including too many random characters in an inflating, laborious plot; weighing down the film’s comedic energy to a meager buzz.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie