review for Trial and Error on AllMovie

Trial and Error (1997)
by Derek Armstrong review

Five years after striking unexpected gold with My Cousin Vinny, director Jonathan Lynn tried to reassemble that film's successful ingredients for Trial and Error, to little avail. The only actor onboard for both is Austin Pendleton, there a stuttering district attorney and here a flabbergasted judge, but the setup is the same: An unaccredited lawyer tries to fumble his way through a trial, relying on limited cunning to mask his inexperience, with theoretically humorous results. Trial and Error is a much broader and more slapstick film than its clever predecessor, relying on pratfalls rather than punch lines for laughs. Perhaps that's inevitable in a film starring Michael Richards, who has never been able to effectively translate the jerky physical comedy of his Seinfeld alter ego, Kramer, to the big screen. Jeff Daniels also spends a lot of his time mugging, which hasn't worked well for him outside of Dumb and Dumber, and the result is a silly trifle with a pretty low I.Q. Richards and Daniels are likeable comic actors who deserve projects worthy of their talents, but they can't cover for the dopey script, which reminds one of the struggling actor played by Richards in the film -- well-meaning and energetic, but ultimately unqualified for the task at hand. Not without the occasional flashes of inspiration, Trial and Error is still mostly error.