Saturday, 5 April 2014

The Ref (1994)

Now this is a blast from the past, well the early 90's. Back in the days when Leary was a smokin' hot comedian but not much of a movie star and Spacey wasn't that much of a movie star either!. One of those films yous saw in the videoshop amongst the other comedies but never rented because you didn't really know who the actors were, and you'd never heard of the film, maybe that's just me.

The plot isn't rocket science but it is genius. Its Christmas and a robber is on the run, so he kidnaps a middle aged married couple, taking them back to their house. Little does the robber know these two lovebirds are having a bit of a marital spat and are at each others throats. To top that the whole family are on the way for Xmas Eve dinner so Leary's robber must try to control the happy couple whilst dealing with a group of nosy pestering family members.

It really does sound like the next perfect National Lampoon caper for Chevy Chase, the whole film is very much like 'Christmas Vacation' accept this is more for adults. Its all very obvious really, naturally Leary uses his quickfire motormouth wit to spearhead much of the comedy and cruel attacks against various family members. Spacey's character is soft spoken but with a sharp tongue whilst Davis' character beautifully grows from calm and collected to spiteful rude and loud with her verbal assaults as she slowly gets more drunk.

The main attacks fly in the direction of Spacey's mother played in a very stuffy way by the stout Glynis Johns. Of course the old mother character has money so the family normally suck up to her constantly, but this all breaks down slowly as the evening progresses which leads to some very funny moments. You can count on Leary to lose his rag in a monumental fashion with everyone as the heat builds and his window to escape slowly closes. 

Quite simply the film plays on the common much used comedic factors of our own relations, something that every family in the world can probably relate to. The old mother who is gruff with little tact and heavily controls one son too much. That son being downtrodden weak and always overruled by his wife who clearly wears the pants in the relationship. The other son not liking his brothers wife (his sister-in-law) because she has his brother whipped. The old mother not liking either sons wives and the wives not liking her (the mother-in-law) either. Caught in the middle are the kids who watch with glee as their parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents swear and curse at each other.

All the characters are very cliched no doubt, all the usual family stereotypes are drained of every last drop of predictable comedy completely. But it works brilliantly, watching the grown ups verbally abuse each other whilst trying to hold it together for the kids and for Christmas is hilarious. Tiptoeing around delicate issues and then bringing them up deliberately to cause an outburst, it makes you laugh it makes you cringe. Then to add to that you have Leary going nuts trying to keep everything civil whilst trying not to break his cover and trying not get caught by the old bill. The fact Leary acts as the marriage counselor for Spacey and Davis really cranks up the laughs when he verbally jousts against the mother and sister-in-law.

This is one of those perfect anti-Christmas flicks that's perfect for Christmas. All the performances are really very good bringing the film to life and making the story so compelling. Its a completely character driven plot with no fancy set pieces or effects or crazy stunts, its all about the dialog. Yeah you know it will have a happy ending and you kinda know how it will pan out as your watching, but its still a dark razor sharp witty pleasure.