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Review: Anne Meara, Jerry Stiller and Mark Ruffalo perk up revival of ‘A Fish in the Bathtub’

Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara in the 1999 movie ‘A Fish in the Bathtub’
Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara in the 1999 movie “A Fish in the Bathtub.”
( Cohen Film Collection)

As a tribute to one of our more unsung female filmmakers, Joan Micklin Silver (“Crossing Delancey”), distributor Cohen Media Group’s restoration and re-release of several of her indie movies, including such 1970s gems as “Hester Street” and “Between the Lines,” is a worthy endeavor.

However, a 20th-anniversary theatrical reissue of the director’s little-seen “A Fish in the Bathtub,” a weak-tea comedy notable solely for some casting pluses, proves far from essential.

It’s definitely fun to see classic comedy duo Jerry Stiller and his now-late wife, Anne Meara, in action again. Unfortunately, this creaky vehicle about a Queens, N.Y., couple — the inexplicably nasty and volatile Sam (Stiller) and the kinder, gentler Molly (Meara) — whose 40-year marriage implodes soon after Sam (also inexplicably) brings home a huge carp to live in their bathtub, is a strained and overly obvious battle-of-the-sexes tale.

Sam and Molly’s angry split will test their resolve as well as the patience of their kids (an early-career Mark Ruffalo and Jane Adams), daughter-in-law (Missy Yager) and many friends and neighbors (enjoyably played by such familiar, now-deceased talents as Doris Roberts, Phyllis Newman, Paul Benedict and Louis Zorich, among others).

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A wan crisscross of romantic issues and missteps involving several of the supporting characters ineffectively pads the thin central story scripted by John Silverstein, David Chudnovsky and Joan’s now-late husband, Raphael D. Silver.

'A Fish in the Bathtub'
Rated: PG-13, for language and some sexual content

Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes

Playing: Starts Nov. 8, Laemmle Royal Theatre, West Los Angeles; Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino


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