A visit from the in-laws - even unofficial in-laws - has been a recipe for trouble, comic and otherwise, in film and in life, just about forever.
But drop a portly, unruly father from France down on Manhattan, where his daughter is living with a native New Yorker - and then bring her libidinous psychotherapist sister and her pot-smoking French boyfriend along for the ride - and the familial and cultural clashing can go haywire.
That's what happens in Julie Delpy's ridiculously funny, ridiculously charming 2 Days in New York, a sequel to the actress/writer/director's 2007 semiautobiographical comedy, 2 Days in Paris. In the former, Delpy's Marion and her then-partner (played by Adam Goldberg) traveled to France to visit her decidedly eccentric parents, and she keeps having flirtatious run-ins with old beaux, much to his distress.
In 2 Days in New York, it's Chris Rock's turn - he's Mingus, a journalist and DJ - to be driven batty by Marion's crazy clan. Jeannot, Marion's papa (Albert Delpy, her real-life dad), was stopped by customs agents at the airport - he had 30 pounds of cheese and sausage strapped to his body. Rose, Marion's sister (Alexia Landeau), walks around the apartment blithely unclothed. And her boyfriend, Manon (Alexandre Nahon), is an opinionated stoner who quickly finds a dealer, and then invites him up to Mingus and Marion's to buy the weed.
Marion, a photographer with a gallery show about to open, has a young son from a prior relationship. And Mingus has a daughter from his first marriage. Their kids shouldn't have to inhale secondhand cannabis.
In part because of its New York setting (replete with a dizzying montage of tourist attractions), and in part because Delpy has clearly spent a lot of time watching Annie Hall, Manhattan, and Hannah and Her Sisters, her movie has a certain Woody Allen-esque je ne sais quois about it. In fact, when Marion gets flustered and starts inventorying her hypochondriacal ailments, she could almost be a younger Woody's distaff doppelgänger.
Rock gets off exasperated quips ("Your family, they're like a reverse Waiting for Godot") but his character is a real character, not a thinly disguised standup star. It's nice to see Rock settle into a role, and as each other's significant other, he and Delpy display genuine rapport.
2 Days in New York finds its comedy in the familiar annoyances of urban life (a contentious neighbor, random acts of vandalism), in the conflict between parents and siblings, but also in bigger, kookier, existential quandaries.
As a stunt to promote her gallery exhibition, Marion decides to sell her soul for $5,000. Surprisingly, she finds a buyer. She doesn't believe in the soul, but when she's signed the papers and taken the check, panic sets in.
Maybe she does have a soul after all - and now it's gone. What's a hysterical actress and filmmaker going to do?
Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at www.philly.com/onmovies.