Sour Grapes

on April 17, 1998 by Bridget Byrne
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   Mean-spirited and witless, "Sour Grapes" lacks all the subtle quirkiness anticipated by the writing and directing credit. If Larry David is truly responsible for making something out of nothing as co-creator of "Seinfeld," there is not a glimmer of that talent visible in this movie. Here, much ado about nothing registers as a zero. Actually, what the ado is about is a $436,000 jackpot which ignites a bitter feud between two cousins, leading to an unpleasant chain of events including heart attacks and the loss of a pair of testicles. The humor isn't black, it isn't wicked, it isn't outrageous, it isn't insightful, it isn't true to life. It simply isn't there.
   David's flat, straight-on direction provides no cover within which the actors might have been able to juice up the crudely sketched characters he has created, many of them reminiscent of "Seinfeld" types but without the impact born of originality. Even the backdrop is no help; clearly too much of the story, based in New York and Atlantic City, has been shot in Los Angeles. The actors seem let loose to do their own stuff and their styles don't gel.
   As the straight guy doctor Evan, Steven Weber is pleasant enough and the most realistic of the bunch, but he is set up in sitcom situations and against hokey performers and thus he merely appears bland. Craig Bierko, as the sneaker shoe designer Richie who pulls the winning jackpot lever, gives a slot machine sort of performance: all noise, eye-rolling, limb jerking, but with no pay-off. Karen Sillas as Evan's girlfriend is infinitely preferable in dramatic roles. Robyn Peterman as Richie's girlfriend and Viola Harris as his overbearing mother display unappetizing sitcom traits, but probably they were
   just playing it as it lay in David's miscued script.    Starring Craig Bierko and Steven Weber. Directed and written by Larry David. Produced by Laurie Lennard. A Columbia release. Comedy. Rated R for language and sex-related humor. Running time: 92 min.
Tags: Starring Craig Bierko and Steven Weber. Directed, written by Larry David, Produced by Laurie Lennard, Columbia, Comedy
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