"The Stupids" lives up to its title all too faithfully. When the filmmakers "put the dumb back into the stupid," as the film's ads say, they forgot to add "the humor."
It's so lifeless, so mechanical--despite a game cast--that animation probably would have been the best way to bring the popular children's books to the screen. In any event, the first show Friday at a Century City theater, which had a scattering of children in the audience, yielded, by careful count, exactly three full-fledged laughs.
Living in a neo-Victorian home in a suburban tract with his wife (Jessica Lundy) and two children (Bug Hall, Alex McKenna), Stanley Stupid (Tom Arnold) becomes obsessed because someone is stealing his garbage. That it proves to be just the garbage collectors doing their job is the something-less-than-thigh-slapping device by which writer Brent Forrester, who has written for "The Simpsons," propels the Stupids into a series of adventures.
The adventures are beneath description but have to do with a rogue colonel (Mark Metcalf) involved in a covert weapons deal and Stanley's confusion between a good guy (Bob Keeshan, TV's beloved Captain Kangaroo) and a bad guy (horror legend Christopher Lee, no less).
Also aboard in cameos and bits are directors Robert Wise, Norman Jewison, Costa-Gavras, Gillo Pontecorvo, David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan, a trademark of the film's director John Landis.
If anyone could have pulled off this would-be comedy with its innocence-triumphant theme, Landis would have been the director to do it, but the script is simply too flat, too uninspired, to keep "The Stupids" from seeming anything but, well, stupid.
* MPAA rating: PG, for some violence. Times guidelines: The film is suitable for all ages.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Tom Arnold: Stanley Stupid
Jessica Lundy: Joan Stupid
Bug Hall: Buster Stupid
Alex McKenna: Petunia Stupid
A New Line Cinema/Savoy Pictures presentation in association with Rank Film Distributors. Director John Landis. Producer Leslie Belzberg. Screenplay by Brent Forrester; based on characters created by James Marshall and Harry Allard. Cinematographer Manfred Guthe. Editor Dale Beldin. Costumes Deborah Nadoolman. Music Christopher Stone. Production designer Phil Dagort. Art director Rocco Matteo. Set decorator Carol Lavoie. Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes.
* In general release throughout Southern California.