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"SOUR GRAPES"
(1998) (Steven Weber, Craig Bierko) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Minor Minor *Moderate None Minor
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild None None None Extreme
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Moderate Minor Minor Minor Minor


QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: Two cousins come to comic blows after one hits a near half million-dollar jackpot after borrowing the winning quarters from the other.
PLOT:
Richie (CRAIG BIERKO), a sneaker sole designer, tells his cousin, Evan (STEVEN WEBER), a noted brain surgeon, that he needs a weekend of rest and relaxation. So, they head off to Atlantic City with Roberta (ROBYN PETERMAN), Richie's girlfriend and Joan (KAREN SILLAS), Evan's better half.

After a night of gambling, the cousins are down to their last quarters and Evan gives Richie his last two. When three bunches of grapes show up in a row on his slot machine, Richie is suddenly $436,000 richer and ecstatic over his winnings. Evan, on the other hand, thinks that his cousin should split the money with him, which Richie thinks is crazy. As the two begin a prolonged discourse about splitting the money, Roberta and Joan eventually leave them in disgust. While Evan resumes his medical career, Richie purposefully gets fired from his job and spends his time with Selma (VIOLA HARRIS), his doting mother.

As a series of comic mishaps follow, several outside characters, including Digby (ORLANDO JONES), a homeless man, and Danny Pepper (MATT KEESLAR), a popular TV actor needing testicular surgery, unexpectedly get wrapped up in their fight. Soon, the actions and reactions of the two cousins begin to spiral out of control as the issue of what to do with the money quickly begins to ruin their lives.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Since the movie is being promoted as "From Larry David, The Co-Creator of 'Seinfeld'," that might just draw some teens to this picture.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For language and sex-related humor.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • STEVEN WEBER plays a brain surgeon who thinks that his cousin should pay him at least half of his winning jackpot. Steamed that he won't, he tells his cousin that he only has a short time to live (from a previous medical condition) and ends up botching a separate operation because he can't focus on anything but the money.
  • CRAIG BIERKO plays a tennis shoe sole designer who adopts a bad, money-induced attitude. He purposefully gets fired from his job after winning a jackpot, won't split his earnings with his cousin, and, unrelated to that, gives himself oral sex due to his double-jointed nature.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
    As some fresh grapes in a bowl slowly begin to wither (in time lapse photography) during the opening credits, there's no doubt this story will revolve around similar, withering relationships. That, coupled with the fact that this film is written and directed by Larry David, the co-creator of the popular TV show, "Seinfeld," leads one to believe that this picture should be a laugh a minute riot. Whether you find it that way depends on your taste for such "sour grapes" -- or in this case sour humor -- that some might find tasty, while others will find completely tasteless.

    The "Seinfeld" comparisons are immediate and inevitable, mainly because this film is so reminiscent of David's previous show in both its characters and style. There's Evan, the neurosurgeon who so closely resembles Jerry from the TV show in dress, mannerisms and speech, that you wonder if he's related to Jerry is some manner. Then there's Richie, who's a combination of the manic Kramer character mixed with George Costanza's pettiness. Throw in Selma, an overbearing and doting Jewish mother (sound familiar?), a bunch of inane, but occasionally funny observational comments about life, and a complex, comic plot that eventually ties its segments together, and you've got an hour and a half version of that TV show.

    Except that it's not as funny, the characters are too weakly drawn and new to the audience for us to feel comfortable with their behavior and mannerisms (compared to the TV show), and the picture aims below the belt for much of its humor. While David includes all of the necessary ingredients that made "Seinfeld" work so well, for some reason it just doesn't work here. Although some audience members at our screening laughed throughout the production, I'd hazard a guess that two-thirds didn't offer more than a chuckle or two at the material.

    The concept is good -- a simple misunderstanding about how or whether to split some jackpot winnings that leads to comic revenge that eventually gets out of control -- and it easily could have been an episode from the TV show. That may part of the problem as this movie feels more like a ninety minute sitcom instead of a feature film. The characters are all standard issue sitcom creations and the comic misfortune -- laced with profanity and situations a bit risque for TV -- is just a beefed up sitcom formula.

    While the film tries quite hard to be smart and humorous, the topics it uses for such matters -- self performed oral sex, heart attacks, surgical castration, homeless people, etc... -- are only mildly funny at best and are probably a bit too tasteless for many moviegoers. In addition, the film also uses its well-known, upbeat classical score pieces -- such as "The Barber of Seville" and several Beethoven numbers -- a bit too heavily in trying to add to the overall comic flair of individual scenes.

    The "Seinfeldian" humor is present, but doesn't always go far or long enough for great comedic payoffs. For example, when Joan starts eating an apple in their car, Richie asks her, "Would you mind getting rid of the apple?" When she asks why, he replies, "I can't be in an enclosed space with fruit." Just as that bit doesn't go any further, there's a brief moment where Evan makes a comment about Joan calling "girlfriends" "lady friends."

    Another observational moment involves Ritchie getting upset that someone didn't hold an elevator for him. While that does lead to a later, mildly funny bit, there are instances of physical comedy, such as when Joan and Evan try to figure out the combination of unlocking a series of deadbolts, that just aren't that funny and/or go on for too long.

    The performances -- all true to their sitcom lineage -- are decent, but not comically brilliant. Steven Weber, best known for his role in the long running TV series, "Wings," fares the best as he underplays most of his mannerisms and reactions. Craig Bierko ("Til There Was You"), on the other hand, plays his character exactly like a combination of the Kramer and George characters from "Seinfeld" -- meaning there's some over the top, outrageous acting. While occasionally funny (if not for the inevitable comparisons), some may find his act a bit irritating. The rest of the supporting performances are all okay, but nothing spectacular.

    Similar to the saying about beauty being in the eye of the beholder, and comparable to some people loving asparagus while others hate it, this movie will clearly divide its audience. Some will find the humor quite funny and will like its "Seinfeld" type bits. Others, however, will be turned off by the somewhat meanspirited or below the belt attempts at humor, while everyone else will recognize what the film's trying to do, but not be overly impressed. We fall into the latter category, and while we found there to a few brief, funny moments, most of the material just didn't make us laugh. We give "Sour Grapes" a 3.5 out of 10.

    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Profanity (10 "f" words) and some implied, self applied oral sex give this film its R rating. While some viewers may find that and the other attempts at humor as funny, others may find most of it distasteful. Beyond the "comic" bad attitudes and some colorful phrases, however, the rest of the categories have no major objectionable content. Even so, you may want to take a quick look through the scene listings in case you or someone in your home wishes to see this film.

    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Some people in a casino drink.
  • The foursome celebrates the jackpot winnings with champagne.
  • We see Joan and others in a bar with drinks.
  • Evan drinks a beer in a bar.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • Richie has a little bit of a bloody lip after a limo driver tosses him out onto the road.
  • We see a tiny bit of blood on Evan's surgical gloves after an operation.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Some may see the film's attempts at humor -- stereotypical Jewish mothers, people dying of heart attacks, homeless African Americans, surgical castration, self applied oral sex, etc... -- as having both.
  • Both Richie and Evan have both toward each other (albeit, in a comic fashion) as they disagree about splitting the jackpot earnings and then attempt to get back at the other.
  • Ritchie insults a limo driver for disagreeing with him about splitting the money.
  • After his boss tells him that he needs to redesign some tennis shoes, Ritchie disagrees and calls his boss "f*ck face" (he's then fired).
  • Ritchie gives away the jogging suit that Evan just gave him for his birthday.
  • For revenge, Evan tells Ritchie that he has an inoperable tumor and only has months to live. In response, and worried that his mother couldn't take care of herself without him, Ritchie purposefully hires a homeless African American (because of his skin color) to go into Selma's house, hoping that the sight of him will scare her to death (his idea of a "mercy" killing).
  • As Roberta leaves him, Ritchie says, "I've seen you naked. That was my only goal."
  • Some executives comment that only Eskimos live in Alaska and that they don't have court cases there.
  • Some homeless guys illegally move into Selma's house (while she's in the hospital) and trash the place.
  • Ritchie is more concerned about going to jail if his mother dies (for being an accessory to her death) than of her health overall.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • None.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Handgun: Held by a man to Evan's back for botching his operation.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "F*ck face," "Blow job" (sexual), "Lucky bastard," "Idiot," "Dumbo," "Jerk," "Shut up," "Balls" (testicles), and "Screwed up."
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • None.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 10 "f" words (3 used with "mother"), 3 "s" words, 5 hells, 1 ass, 1 damn, and 6 uses of "Oh My God" and 2 uses each of "For God's sakes" and "My God" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • Richie tells Evan that after they're through gambling, "You'll have the rest of the night for hotel sex. How are you going to pass up the time for hotel sex?"
  • Evan comments to Joan about Ritchie, "You know what's he's doing? He's probably in the back of the limo giving himself a blow job." He then comments on Ritchie being double-jointed.
  • We see some passionate kissing and hear some heavy breathing as Evan and Joan prepare to have sex (they're nude under the covers). They then struggle about who is going to get on top and during this we see just ever-so-brief glimpses of her breasts.
  • When Evan asks him what he's doing that night, Ritchie says that Roberta is out of town and "I'll probably just go home and blow myself."
  • We see Ritchie's head bobbing up and down (we see this from behind him as he sits on a sofa) as he gives himself oral sex, and we see this happen a few more times later in the story.
  • As Roberta leaves him, Ritchie says, "I've seen you naked. That was my only goal."
  • SMOKING
  • Ritchie smokes a cigar a few times while a homeless man also smokes.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Evan goes to see his daughter who lives with her mother and stepfather (nothing tense occurs, it's just that the girl has to split time between seeing her parents -- and this scene is very brief).
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Trying to find humor in topics that aren't normally inherently funny.
  • Whether Ritchie should have split the money with Evan who gave him the winning quarters.
  • VIOLENCE
  • All that follows is done in a comic fashion.
  • A limo driver tosses Ritchie out of a limo and onto the side of the road after Ritchie insults him.
  • Two homeless guys struggle over a TV remote control.
  • We hear the sound of a hospital nurse hitting Ritchie.
  • A man holds a gun to Evan's back for botching his operation. The two then struggle for the gun and Joan hits Evan on the back with his briefcase to make them stop.



  • Reviewed April 29, 1998

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