Patricia Arquette and Ben Stiller in Flirting with Disaster (1996)

Russell's Random Roadtrip

With the birth of his son Mel Coplin (Ben Stiller) is facing a midlife crisis as having been adopted at a young age he is struggling to deal with who he is and as such won't settle on a name for his son. His wife Nancy (Patricia Arquette) is doing her best to be supportive and agrees to Mel's wish to discover who he is after the adoption agency track down who his real mum is and also agrees to let trainee psychiatrist Tina Kalb (Téa Leoni) to join them and film everything as she will pay for the trip. But it is a very eventful road trip as Mel begins to question whether he and Nancy are right for each other or whether there is something between him and Tina.

That makes "Flirting with Disaster" sound like quite a run of the mill road trip comedy with some typical character types; the nervy, neurotic man in a mid life crisis, the sex mad wife who is desperate to sort things out so that their sex life returns to normal, the adoptive parents who feel abandoned, the real parents and plenty more. But there is something I haven't mentioned as "Flirting with Disaster" was written by David O. Russell so whilst we have a mainstream cast such as Ben Stiller and George Segal we also have some non mainstream comedy which might surprise you and embarrass you if you were to watch it with your family having seen that it is a Ben Stiller movie.

Mary Tyler Moore and George Segal in Flirting with Disaster (1996)

But the thing is that the best way to describe "Flirting with Disaster" is a mainstream road trip movie but in the hands of someone who is more interested in the quirky and edgy rather than a regular. To give you an idea there is a scene which features Mel having just picked up his nameless baby out of the cot and the extremely horny Nancy wanting to perform a sex act on Mel unaware that Tina is in the other room. It isn't a perverse scene but one which if you are not prepared for Russell's edge may shock you. And there are a lot more of these scenes which raise this regular sort of storyline into something fresh and frankly funnier.

In many ways this edge which Russell brings to his movie allows the actors to think out side of the box and so whilst Ben Stiller as Mel at times delivers something which you might think is typical Stiller, as in the neurotic character but he then lifts it to be a lot more entertaining through doing something non Stiller like. It is the same through out the main cast with Arquette and Leoni both bringing plenty of life to their characters and making them memorable as are the supporting performances especially from Josh Brolin.

What this all boils down to is that "Flirting with Disaster" is a lot of fun and shows that in the right hands something as regular as a road trip movie can be a lot more entertaining than you might expect. Just be warned as Russell's sense of what's funny is not going to be everyone's taste especially those who watch purely because it stars Ben Stiller.