Reviewed by: Brian Nigro
Moviegoers last saw the Amish (an order of the Mennonite Church based primarily in Ohio and Pennsylvania, for those who don’t know), in Randy Quaid’s crude imbecle in “Kingpin” (1996). Ever eager to please Christian audiences, Universal Studios brings back cardboard Amish characterizations for an encore in “For Richer or Poorer”, a bland “family values” comedy starring Tim Allen and Kirstie Alley.
I call this a “family values” comedy because it’s clearly pro-marriage, anti-divorce. (If it weren’t for the pervasive sexual innuendo, this would actually be worthwhile for any Promise Keeper.) The movie deliberately lets the audience know that Tim Allen, playing a successful real estate magnate, and Kirstie Alley, his superficial wife, are having marital problems. In the first few minutes, she suggests divorce—but, of course, that becomes the conflict to overcome in a two-hour movie.
Marital difficulty, though, isn’t the only problem. They are in trouble with the IRS, thanks in no small part to their financial advisor (played by Wayne Knight from TV’s “Seinfeld”). So, they hide out in Amish country, in an all-too-obvious hodgepodge that recalls both “Witness” (1985) and “Sister Act” (1992). Is there any question what happens next? It’s a no-brainer.
Tim Allen’s performance isn’t worth mentioning (“Jungle 2 Jungle”, anyone?); but, audiences will get major deja vu from Kirstie Alley giving pep talks to the Amish women who, the movie suggests, live for baking and cleaning. It’s almost line-for-line dialogue from “Sister Act”, which had Whoopi Goldberg’s Sister Mary Clarence jazzing up the church.
If director Bryan Spicer is becoming Universal’s pinch-hitter for “family values,” then perhaps all his movies deserve to bomb at the box office. The only thing missing from “For Richer or Poorer” is Tom Arnold—but, I didn’t sit through the end credits, so I’m not entirely certain about that, either.
“For Richer or Poorer” is rated PG-13 for pervasive sexual innuendo, including nearly a dozen profanities and frequent, conspicuous chain-smoking. Adults will find it rather juvenille and un-funny; yet, it’s not appropriate for young children, either. (Parents, are you listening?) Not recommended.