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Monday, May 30, 2016

The Family Fang Review

Razor-Sharp Fangs
Jason Bateman's follow-up to his directorial debut in "Bad Words", is "The Family Fang", possibly my favorite narrative piece from the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. It owes its success to a truly unique script that was penned by David Lindsay-Abaire, based on the novel by Kevin Wilson, and a stellar cast, including Bateman, Nicole Kidman, Christopher Walken - as crazy as usual - and Kathryn Hahn.

Baxter Fang (Bateman) and his sister Annie (Kidman) grew up under extremely odd circumstances. They were raised by their parents Caleb (Walken) and Camille (Hahn in the past and Maryann Plunkett in the present) to take part in their particularly odd forms of street performance. All of these performances are designed to initially draw innocent bystanders near and then have something outrageous happen, causing the bystanders to initially exhibit sympathy, especially towards the children.

In one flashback, we see the family pretend to commit a bank robbery which results in Camille being shot to death. While everyone around them freaks out, Caleb films it all until the gag is over. Similar stunts abound. Some are funny. All of them are uncomfortable to watch, usually because you can't help but feel for young Baxter and Camille.

In the present, as adults, Baxter and Annie are estranged from their parents. They both feel like they were horribly psychologically damaged by being used as props for their parents' street performance art. Circumstances bring Baxter back home to mom and dad and he begs his sister to join him, which she reluctantly does. What follows is Baxter and Annie being unwittingly drawn in again. The results are sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and always bizarre.

"The Family Fang" accomplishes combining humor, light drama, fine acting, and most of all a good story that bounces in unexpected directions. Bateman has done a nice job putting it all together and he may turn out to be a major director, someday. For now, we know he can put together a winner and this one has pretty sharp fangs.

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