Trial and Error

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Director Jonathan Lynn (of My Cousin Vinny) tackles another fish-out-of-water courtroom comedy, but this time with less success. Jeff Daniels stars as Charles, an upwardly mobile L.A. lawyer who is set to marry the daughter (Alexandra Wentworth) of the head of his law firm. His best friend is Richard (Michael Richards, aka Cosmo Kramer of Seinfeld fame), a struggling actor and the best man at Charles' wedding. Three days before the wedding, Charles' future father-in-law sends him to a small town in Nevada, where a distant family member (Rip Torn) has run afoul of the law. Rather than let Charles miss his bachelor party, Richard take the party to Nevada, inadvertently ensuring that Charles is in no condition to go to trial the next morning. Instead, Richard fills in for his comatose pal, thinking it will be a quick role. However, when the judge (Austin Pendleton) refuses to allow a continuance, Richard is stuck as the lawyer, trying to win an unwinnable case. Naturally this provides plenty of fodder for Michael Richards to bumble, stumble and tumble through countless pratfalls and awkward situations. However, Trial and Error stumbles about as much as he does. Continual stumbling can't quite support the film, as can be evidenced by the track record of Chevy Chase. The two lead actors here are surprisingly bland, leaving the supporting cast to carry the film. At least Rip Torn and Austin Pendleton have some amusing moments. The romantic subplots, pairing the two leads with Charlize Theron and Jessica Steen, fare moderately well, but are rather obvious. The film does have a few good stretches here and there, primarily when Richard applies his sense of melodrama to the trial, having watched one too many courtroom films. In the long run, though, Trial and Error has as many misses as hits. This one will keep until video.

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