Though 1992 is not yet over, “There Goes the Neighborhood” is a top contender for the most outlandishly silly comedy of the year. The combination of a TV-inspired high concept and inept production values accounts for an unappealing film that has no redeeming qualities. Bill Phillips’ lame pic, now in limited run in the Phoenix area, will inevitably be rushed to video.
Jeff Daniels stars as Willis Embris, a none-too-bright prison shrink whose house is burglarized and bombed. Down on his luck, he decides to fulfill the last request of a dying convict (Harris Yulin), which is to search for a fortune that had been buried in the basement of a New Jersey home.
Unfortunately, two other prisoners overhear the scheme and break out of jail to unearth the loot, only they get the address wrong.
Posing as a repairman, Daniels soon shows up at the suburban home of Jessie (CatherineO’Hara), an attractive woman in the middle of a nasty divorce. Jilted by his own g.f., Daniels finds the perfect soulmate and partner in the acerbic O’Hara.
The action in this unfunny comedy shifts back and forth between Daniels and O’Hara feverishly digging up her basement, and the escaped criminals, who are holding captive the next-door neighbors (Hector Elizondo and Judith Ivey) and searching for the treasure.
Following the ludicrous portrayal of shrinks in “Whispers in the Dark,” this pic contains another ridiculous psychologist, a couple of mean authors who are never seen writing, a sociology graduate who puts her Ivy League college to shame, etc.
The premise of the TV-like comedy is borrowed from the Humphrey Bogart vehicle “We’re No Angels,” in which a trio of genial escapees from Devil’s Island descend on a family. Here, too, the “philosophical” criminals are depicted as brighter and more sensitive than the ‘burb’s yuppies.
Writer-director Phillips can’t sustain a consistent mood for more than a minute or so. Incoherent pic changes gears almost every scene, unsuccessfully blending conventions from screwball comedy, romantic comedy, sitcoms and campy spoof.