First Family (1980)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Parody/Spoof, Political Satire  |   Release Date - Dec 25, 1980 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 104 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Craig Butler

It's staggering to think that a man who wrote such wonderful comedies as The Graduate and What's Up Doc? could also come up with the atrocity that is First Family, but indeed Buck Henry did do such a thing. It would be tempting to blame the mess on the director, but since that is also Henry, nothing is really gained by that tactic. Family is not totally without laughs, but it does come perilously close. For the most part, the jokes are simply not funny, and even the few that are, are not helped by Henry's lackluster, pointless direction. Of course, it is possible -- not advisable, but possible -- to make a comedy that is low on laughs but which is still effective because the story itself is well put-together, its characters are engaging or at least amiable, and there's a sense of cheeriness and lightheartedness that makes one willing to settle for a few smiles rather than a barrel of guffaws. But Family is lacking in all these areas as well, ultimately being an unfocused, irritating mess of a movie. That it manages this despite the presence of an absolutely first rate cast seems incredible, but it's true. Such incredible talents as Bob Newhart, Gilda Radner and Austin Pendleton have nothing to show for their efforts; only Madeline Kahn somehow manages to rise - ever so slightly -- above the material.