Out On a Limb
1992 Directed by Francis Veber. Starring Matthew Broderick, Jeffrey Jones, Heidi Kling, Marian Mercer, John C. Reilly, Michael Monks, Courtney Peldon, David Margulies.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Sept. 11, 1992
Out on a Limb... oh boy, is it ever. French master farceur Veber takes his second shot at Hollywood directing (Three Fugitives was his first) and comes up several branches short of a hardwood. Word has it that the final cut was taken away from him, so it's hard to exactly pinpoint the source of the root rot. Still, this story about a young, city guy (Broderick) getting sucked up into the strange goings-on in some backwoods town called Buzzsaw has its moments, though it's a while before you shake the feeling that you're trapped in some crazy crossbreed of The Dukes of Hazzard meets Newhart. Things turn frantic right at the beginning when Broderick is taken hostage and left naked by gun-toting newcomer Kling. He's picked up by the Jims, a couple of beer-swilling, low-I.Q. brothers both named Jim, who garner most of the film's laughs. Broderick's been called back to Buzzsaw by his imaginative sister (Peldon) who claims that their stepfather (and mayor of Buzzsaw) is a gangster and not who he says he is (Jones in dual roles as twin brothers). This story of mistaken identity, incidentally, was scripted by twin brothers Daniel and Joshua Goldin. Despite the massive frenzy that manifests itself at every turn, Out on a Limb never rises to the level of its manic setups. Situations aren't mined for all they're worth, the performances are lackluster, continuity is shattered at a few points and the tone is a strange cross-mixture of comedy and action drama. Of note is the lush musical score by fallen recording artist Van Dyke Parks. I'm not sure what to say but, boy, there sure is a lot of it and it's all elaborately arranged. Also included is the Texas Tornados tune “(Hey Baby) Que Paso.” Framing the movie is kid sister's recounting of her summer vacation for her school classmates wherein she tells of her brother's heroics, a mayor's murder and her mother's freakout. Two classmates done up as junior league Siskel and Ebert clones keep interrupting the story to comment on its believability, effectiveness and narrative coherence. This cute self-referential attempt to sugarcoat the movie's weaknesses comes across as cloying and all too true. Out on a Limb plays like pure driftwood.