In the first scene of the now-streaming comedy Drunk Parents, Alec Baldwin and Salma Hayek’s titular mom and pop bid farewell to their daughter as she begins her college life… before heading home to get wasted on the lawn of their suburban estate.
But despite the title, Drunk Parents never really does a deep dive into the alcoholic tendencies of the Baldwin and Hayek characters, Frank and Nancy Teagarten. We can assume they’re mildly buzzed throughout most of the film, but the more serious aspects of intoxication, along with more darkly comedic opportunities, are never touched upon.
Instead, Frank and Nancy are a pair of well-intentioned parents who have shown their daughter the good life – – at the expense of their own financial health. The day she embarks on her adult life, they toss everything they own out the door for an ineffective lawn sale that seems to last the duration of the movie. And then the scheming starts.
With days until the family car is towed, Frank accidentally rents out the home of his out-of-town neighbor (Aasif Mandvi, in a literally phoned-in performance) in a drunken stupor.
Of course, the guy they rent it out to, Carl (Jim Gaffigan), happens to be a sex offender who spends the following day going door-to-door to announce his arrival.
And after Frank and Nancy switch houses with Carl – in some kind of effort, I guess, to preserve their absent neighbor’s home from sex crimes at the expense of their own – they’re mistaken as pedophiles themselves by a vigilante group, bound and gagged, and driven out into the middle of the woods at gunpoint.
And thus begins the shaggy dog narrative that constitutes the entire story of Drunk Parents, a film that never goes anywhere and doesn’t lead to anything, despite a family-values ending that feels completely out of place given the events of the film that preceded it.
In what might be the best scene in the film, an uncredited Will Ferrell and Colin Quinn show up as a pair of bums whose plight aligns with the Baldwin and Hayek characters; Magic Mike’s Joe Manganiello shows up as Frank & Nancy’s brother-in-law, while Treat Williams makes a thankless climactic appearance.
Drunk Parents was written and directed by Fred Wolf, longtime Saturday Night Live head writer whose previous big screen credits include a pair of Joe Dirt and Grown Ups films. That should give you an idea of the ballpark Drunk Parents is operating in, and indeed, the movie is surprisingly bereft of written jokes from someone who had so much success as a comedy writer.
But Drunk Parents has one thing really going for it, compared to the usual Adam Sandler-David Spade films that operate in this hemisphere: the presence of Alec Baldwin and Salma Hayek, who light up the screen in the kind of wackadoodle lead roles typically assigned to pratfalling SNL veterans.
Baldwin effortlessly slides into a kind of Jack Donaghy 30 Rock persona, but Hayek (also briefly on 30 Rock) is totally off-the-wall as the acid-tongued Nancy. Drunk Parents relies almost entirely on its actors for comedy (improv, physical, and otherwise), and whatever success the film has it owes to its stars.