FOR RICHER OR POORER
Tim Allen and Kirstie Alley star in this charming if shallow farce about
a rich New York couple who are forced to try their hands at the simple life.
Brad Sexton (Allen) is a sleazy real estate entrepreneur, and Caroline (Alley)
is his spoiled wife of ten years, a woman born with money who bitterly regrets
choosing marriage to Brad over a career in fashion design. They are on the
verge of divorce when they find that they have been had by their accountant
(Wayne Knight), who has embezzled huge amounts of cash and skipped town.
Suddenly penniless and with all their accounts frozen, they find themselves
on the run from a gun-happy IRS commando (Larry Miller) and his more conventional
sidekick (Miguel A. Nunez Jr.).
After driving all night, they end up in a rural Pennsylvania town with
nothing but horse-drawn buggies as far as the eye can see. Brad overhears
at the general store that one man's cousin, who was supposed to visit for
planting season, will be a month late. So he decides the perfect way to
dodge their pursuers is to adopt this cousin's identity until they can work
things out with their attorney. They arrive at the farm of (who else!) Sam
Yoder (Jay O. Sanders), and are quickly taken in by Sam and his wife Levinia
(Megan Cavanaugh). The Yoders are a little taken aback by their cousins'
ill-fitting clothes and unconventional manner, but they have little trouble
being hospitable, as the Amish are wont to do.
Things seem to be running relatively smoothly for the Sextons at first:
the bed's a little small, and there's no indoor plumbing, but these people
are nice and it's better than sleeping on the ground. This changes promptly
at 4:30 the next morning, when they are awakened by an axe-wielding grandfather
and put to work on the farm. What follows is a hilarious period of adjustment
for the Sextons and the Yoders, during which the two families grow closer
and closer together, while Brad and Caroline come to rediscover what they
liked about each other in the first place.
This movie probably appeals more to people like us, who live near an
Amish community, than folks who've only seen them in movies like Witness.
It's kind of a comfortable feeling knowing that we can probably get the
jokes better than people in, say, L.A. Of course it helps that this very
newspaper has published two different front-page photos featuring our own
local Sam Yoder! And the scenery in the movie is so familiar, you'd think
it was shot right here in Garrett County.
The script is predictably silly, but there is a lot of heart to the story.
Allen and Alley seem to actually connect better during the scenes on the
farm than in N.Y.C., not only in the story, but as actors. Maybe it's the
fresh air. The scenes in New York are really much less engaging, because
they mainly involve a silly chase involving some rather two-dimensional
characters. Although Knight has done some stretching before, as in Jurassic
Park, this is mostly his patented "neurotic wimp"; a slightly-less
overblown version of his Newman character on Seinfeld. Miller's character
is a ridiculous caricature of Clint Eastwood, and Nunez's is a throwaway,
included only to counterbalance Miller's.
Director Bryan Spicer and writers Jana Howington and Steve LuKanic have
seemingly infused the farm sections with more life, more character, to evoke
the feeling that the country life is better, realer than that in
urban areas. The Sextons in the last scene are virtually unrecognizable
as their former selves, and Allen's and Alley's deliveries are more natural,
I want to recommend this movie to all my friends in the local Amish community, but I guess it's not gonna happen. ***½
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