Relative Strangers
First Look Pictures // PG-13 // $26.99 // January 23, 2007
Review by Jeffrey Robinson | posted March 4, 2007
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The Movie

The 2006 movie Relative Strangers is a comedy written and directed by Greg Gilenna, the same guy who was responsible for Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers. The story is pretty cut and dry, playing off of the cultural and sociological conflicts between overly rich snobs and white trash hicks. The comedy is lacking and feels lack a poor attempt to rekindle the comical magic of Gaylord Focker.

In Relative Strangers, Ron Livingston plays Richard Clayton. He is the son of Doug (Edward Herrmann) and Arleen Clayton (Christien Baranski), two rich snobs who care more about their self image than anything else. Richard is a man with a troubled past. Luckily, when he hit rock bottom, he pulled himself up. He worked hard in school and got his doctorate and developed a self-help program that he has successfully used to control his anger problems. Now, he is the author of a self-help book that he is promoting to the world. His fiancee is Ellen (Neve Campbell), a kind woman who loves him dearly. Life is good.

Despite life being good for Richard, it takes a turn for the worst when his discontent, alcoholic brother Mitch (Bob Odenkirk) reveals that Richard is adopted. Richard is shocked about the news and tries to locate his biological parents. He hires a private investigator, who informs him that it could take a longtime. However, it only takes a matter of days to locate his birth parents, Frank (Danny DeVito) and Agnes Manure (Kathy Bates). They are anxious to meet him and agree to come spend the weekend at Richard's place.

At first, Richard is excited beyond words to meet his parents. However, when he meets them at the door, his excitement subsides. It turns out Frank and Agnes are polar opposites of his family in almost every shape and size. They are white trash hicks who live in a trailer park, have poor manners, and are loud, obnoxious, and uncivilized. Since meeting them, everything in Richard's life has gone wrong, from losing his sanity to his book publisher to his fiancee. The crazy sequence of events simply include a lot of situations that cause him to lose his cool, such as the Manures embarrassing Richard in front of his adoptive-family and friends, a wild hillbilly house party, and the Manures crashing Richard's live television book promotion.

What works for the movie is very little. The problem is that the comedy is too reliant on the Manures and their loud, riotous behavior, and country folk cliches. The unfortunate part is that the comedy is overplayed and feels too forced. There are a couple moments when DeVito and Bates offer laughs, but more often than not their material comes off as lackluster. The other characters do not offer laughs. Livingston was awful in his role, a very whiney and annoying character. Campbell had a minor role. Odenkirk was the only person close to be being funny, but like Livingston, he was a cliched rich drunk and not funny.

Overall, Relative Strangers is not a very good movie. In fact, I had a real hard time sitting through the entire thing. I thought this was a shame because it started with some promise. The initial portions with DeVito and Bates were worth a chuckle. However, the funny parts were soon lost amongst a variety of cliches and overused jokes that just weren't funny. In the end, Relative Strangers turned out to be a slow going, dull movie.


The video is given in an anamorphic 1.78:1 ratio widescreen color. The picture quality is quite good. It suffers from a slight grain, but detail remains to be sharp and clear. However, there are some occasional moments when the picture suffers compression artifacts. This is a rare occurrence, but it does happen.

The primary audio track is given in English 5.1 Dolby digital surround sound. There is also an English 2.0 Dolby digital stereo sound track included. The 5.1 track is overkill. There is very little use of the surround sound capability with most activity in the forward channels. As for the quality, both the 5.1 and 2.0 tracks offer dialogue that is easy to hear and music that sounds rich.

There are also subtitles included in English and Spanish, and support for closed captioning.

If by chance you enjoyed Relative Strangers, there are a couple extras to enjoy. I, however, did not care for the movie or the extras. The extras include two interview featurettes with cast and crew.

  • On The Set (12:56): is a behind the scenes featurette with cast and crew talking about the movie, experiences, characters, casting, etc. The cast and crew includes Danny DeVito, Kathy Bates, Peter Stass, Greg Glienna, Rhea Perlman, Brian Etting, Neve Campbell, Ron Livingston, Bob Odenkirk, Josh Etting, Ram Bergman, Martin Mull, Beverly D'Angelo, and Christine Baranski.
  • Relatives on Relatives (5:21): Ron Livingston, Peter Stass, Neve Campbell, Danny DeVito, Christine Baranski, Bob Odenkirk, Martin Mull, Connie Smith, Greg Glienna, Edward Herrmann, Josh Etting, Brian Etting, Pete Schwaba, Matt Bardocz, Denise Ciarcia, John O'Rouke, and Nick Livingston star in this short featurette and talk about their own relatives and how we all have family members we may not wish to always associate ourselves with.
  • Previews: Trailers are provided for Relative Strangers, Her Minor Thing, The Couple, Mr. Fix It, and A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints.

Final Thoughts:
Relative Strangers is a comedy about a man who finds out he is adopted and the cultural and sociological clashes that result from having two sets of parents from very different sides of the track. This comedy attempts to get all of its laughs from cliched white trash, hillbilly jokes. The problem is that it does not work and the laughs are few too little. In the end, Relative Strangers is a dry, run of the mill flick that is not worth your time.

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