By Owen Gleiberman
April 28, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

Stuart Saves His Family

C+
type
  • Movie

There’s a prickly comic tension to Stuart Smalley (Al Franken), the angelic recovery addict from Saturday Night Live. Nerdish and dim, with a syrupy lisp that makes him sound like a morose homosexual from the pre-Stonewall era, he wants to be a human Care Bear, but his 12-step-nurtured fuzzy-wuzzy ”compassion” is the most dysfunctional thing about him. (It’s what he has instead of a personality.) On SNL, Stuart can barely keep his composure long enough to get through one of his Daily Affirmation TV spots. It’s a trick, though, to build a feature-length comedy around someone who’s falling apart, even with his archetypally miserable Midwestern family-alcoholic-meanie dad (Harris Yulin), layabout brother (Vincent D’Onofrio), face-stuffing sister (Lesley Boone), and enabling mom (Shirley Knight)-on hand to push him over the edge. Stuart Saves His Family is a hit-or-miss satire in which Stuart, for too many scenes, comes off simply as a goofy neurotic butterball. The real problem may be that writer-star Al Franken ends up taking gentle pokes at habitual 12-steppers without really skewering their main mantra: that it’s the spiritual apex of life to be ”okay.”

Stuart Saves His Family

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