Adam Devine is the sort of comedic personality you want to like. He’s got a boyish, eager-to-please persona that was charmingly exploited during his guest run on Modern Family, in which he played popular girl Haley’s nice-guy alternative to the dickheads she’d been dating. We wanted him to succeed then and there’s still a part of us that wants him to succeed now.


Too bad that every subsequent professional decision Devine has made has been absolute shite, culminating in a movie in which he must participate in a bank robbery, screaming most of the time while having his skin painted green to disguise him as Shrek. The fact that Devine’s Owen Browning, himself a bank manager, actually participates in a bank robbery is technically a spoiler for The Out-Laws, now streaming on Netflix. The question, though, is whether you can spoil something that comes to you sourer than spoilt milk.

A man of a thousand muggings – that’s goofy faces, not instances of theft – Owen is marrying out of his league, as he’s engaged to yoga instructor Parker, played by Nina Dobrev. Because that’s the sort of movie this is, Owen’s parents (Richard Kind and Julie Hagerty) and other various relatives are apparently unable to conceive of this as a profession, so they continually refer to her as a stripper. Parker handles that with a graciousness that none of them deserves, and may seem further unlikely given the family she herself comes from.

Parker’s parents, Billy (Pierce Brosnan) and Lilly (Ellen Barkin), are bank robbers. She doesn’t know this, and they don’t exactly go around announcing it. Then again, they’re not around, full stop, as they have been operating under the cover story of living with a tribe of natives in South America as part of an ethnographic study. They weren’t even going to come to the wedding, but they do mysteriously show up just in time – to make the wedding, and to rob Owen’s bank. If Billy’s distinct cologne weren’t enough of a giveaway with the robbery in progress, Owen has drunkenly confessed to them the means of getting into the vault on a night of get-to-know you bonding. Apparently, bank robbers so successful they’ve been dubbed the Ghost Bandits aren’t interested in taking the simplest precautions to prevent the discovery of their identities.

Of course, since we don’t really want to hate Parker’s parents, they only commit the robbery to repay a debt to a ruthless gangster played by Poorna Jagannathan. It’s true that they once ripped her off, but now she wants five times back what they took – the usual markup for emerging alive from an exchange with someone like Rehan Zakaryan. And of course she’s threatening Billy and Lilly’s daughter if they don’t comply. Will Owen rat them out? Will he cave to the prying of a drunken FBI agent played by Michael Rooker? Will any of us care?


Devine has had a suspect enough career that it’s too kind to talk about The Out-Laws being a waste of his talent. That’s okay because plenty of other undeniable talent has been wasted in Tyler Spindel’s film. Perhaps none of Brosnan, Barkin, Kind and Hagerty are exactly in their prime, though Hagerty has had a late-career renaissance ever since she appeared in Marriage Story a few years ago. They all, though, should have instinct enough to sniff out a turd when it’s right under their noses. The Out-Laws represents a severe case of collective olfactory dysfunction.

And this is the point where we explain it all by revealing that this is the latest Happy Madison production in Adam Sandler’s never-ending deal with Netflix (and features nepotism queen Jackie Sandler, Adam’s wife, in a small role). Spindel already directed one of these with 2020’s The Wrong Missy, which was not quite as inept as The Out-Laws but which also featured comic Lauren Lapkus. There she was incredibly obnoxious as the movie’s co-star, but relegating her to a supporting character here has not made her any easier to swallow. A rival bank manager with a far more successful security system, Lapkus’ thing is to taunt Owen by showing him how the system works as if pleasuring herself. That thud you hear is the landing of this bit.


The hard R humour of The Out-Laws is both jejune and dated. This is not merely the critical blushings of a square critic. You can sense when a movie just doesn’t have any class and is taking wild stabs at being funny with material that was already on its way out in 1998. (A scene of a car chase through a cemetery is a prime example of that bad taste.) Then again, that shouldn’t be much of a surprise as the Happy Madison catalogue is comprised of similar fodder, only it hasn’t worked since Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore.

The influence of Netflix is too cute by half. Not for the first time, but worthy of a groan whenever it appears, the suits at Netflix can’t resist the urge to throw in Easter eggs to other Netflix content. (Or maybe it’s just screenwriters Ben Zazove and Evan Turner kissing up to the mothership.) In one throwaway moment, Owen suggests they play a game of Never Have I Ever – which also happens to be the name of a popular Netflix show that stars this film’s villain, Poorna Jagannathan. It’s hardly the film’s only self-referential moment, as they can’t resist the urge to drop in a James Bond joke in Pierce Brosnan’s presence.


Everything that’s tired about The Out-Laws comes back to Devine and his exhausted series of tics and shenanigans. Even though he should be in his prime at age 38, it may be time to put him out to pasture. Devine’s going on nearly ten years of work so hammy that even Kevin Hart would turn it down, and at least with Hart you get the occasional dramatic turn that shows what else he’s capable of. It’s become clear, and is abundantly confirmed by The Out-Laws, that Devine may not be capable of anything other than this. A marriage with Sandler may be fortuitous, though, because both Devine’s desire to stretch his rubber face and Sandler’s Netflix deal seem destined to go on forever.


The Out-Laws is currently streaming on Netflix.


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