Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller may be best known for their outlandish humor, but in The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), writer/director Noah Baumbach casts them in more realistic and affecting roles than usual. In doing so, he crafts a film that is perhaps both comedy icons’ funniest movie in years.
The Meyerowitz Stories is about a dysfunctional family made up of Danny (Sandler), Jean (Elizabeth Marvel), and their successful half-brother Matthew (Stiller), who has lost touch with the family after moving to LA. When their father Harold (Dustin Hoffman) develops a brain illness, the three siblings reunite to take care of him and face their familial conflicts.
As in most of writer/director Noah Baumbach’s movies, the strongest aspect of The Meyerowitz Stories is its rich, fully realized characters. Every member of the family is eccentric, funny, and unique.
Harold is an artist who constantly obsesses over whether or not his work will be remembered. This narcissistic obsession comes at the expense of a functional relationship with his kids, who are each forced to compete for his affection. His sons, Danny and Matthew, are polar opposites of one another. Danny is a failed musician, while Matthew is a business wunderkind. Harold’s daughter Jean is the quietest yet quirkiest of the bunch. She prides herself on the short films that she makes for her colleagues at Xerox. These great characters make up for a rather tame plot that follows a familiar dysfunctional family trope.
Netflix, which has distributed many notorious Sandler movies to generally poor critical reception, has finally got itself something great starring the comedy legend. Although its plot explores well-trod territory, Noah Baumbach’s rich characters, delightful humor, and superb ensemble make his latest dramedy one of his best.