Modern Problems (1981)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Fantasy Comedy, Screwball Comedy  |   Release Date - Dec 25, 1981 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 91 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Donald Guarisco

This Chevy Chase vehicle is hardly his finest moment but is interesting despite its flaws. Modern Problems is an odd proposition: it offers a clever premise and some surprisingly trenchant commentary on the attitudes of the early '80s but undercuts those attributes with some strange artistic choices. The biggest mistake is casting Chevy Chase -- a comedic actor known at the time for his effortless cool -- as a depressed, antisocial schlub. The intense mood swings of his character make him tough to sympathize with. Even worse, said mood swings seem to serve the plot more than any kind of common sense and they constantly derail the film. Still, Modern Problems has enough inspiration to avoid being a total loss. Ken Shapiro's direction might falter during the quiet moments, but he makes up for it with some inspired set pieces, including a ballet recital that comes undone due to Max's powers and an extended parody of The Exorcist during the finale. Modern Problems also benefits from a great supporting cast: Patti D'Arbanville is fetching as the love interest, Mary Kay Place and Brian Doyle-Murray are subtly funny, and Dabney Coleman steals the show as the egotistical psychologist who becomes Max's arch-nemesis. In short, Modern Problems is an extremely mixed bag, but there are enough golden moments to make it worth a rental for comedy addicts.