(1996)4Brian J. DillardFlirting With Disaster combines a satirical tendency to play with broad character types -- the overbearing Jewish mother, the fastidious homosexual, the neurotic career woman, the conservative Texan -- with a razor sharp eye for absurd situations and a wonderful attention to the nuances of dialogue. The result is a winning comedy that subverts as many stereotypes as it upholds, one that keeps its jokes rooted to its characters' inner lives even as it indulges in frequently hilarious set-ups and pratfalls. The wonderful performances are too numerous to mention, but old pros Mary Tyler Moore, Alan Alda, and Lily Tomlin head the list -- Tomlin for playing wonderfully to type and the other two for subverting their supremely nice images. (An infamous scene of Moore flashing her black brassiere at the camera gave the sitcom goddess cachet with a whole new audience in the '90s.) As for the leads, Ben Stiller plays his typically self-involved everyman as capably as ever, while Patricia Arquette, as his sweetly grounded wife, and Tea Leoni, as the svelte psych student who comes between them, provide low-key comic genius. Factor in Josh Brolin's best performance to date, as an armpit-licking novelist/federal agent, and it becomes clear that precocious second-time writer/director David O. Russell is as good with actors as he is with jokes and dialogue. Flirting With Disaster may not break taboos like Russell's debut, Spanking the Monkey, but its hilarious send-ups of everything from hippie survivors to gay marriage proves the director can put a distinctive stamp on even a relatively mainstream comedy.