Checking Out is an absolute must see and must own to see again comedy movie DVD. The cast alone, Peter Falk (Columbo and the grandfather in The Princess Bride), Laura San Giacomo (who can be uneven but is really good here), and Judge Reinhold would suggest potential. Though the premise, an old Jewish actor tells his children he is going to have one last party before checking out voluntarily, does not suggest the comedy potential, the inevitable family reunion that follows does.
That Checking Out won for best picture and best screenplay at the Phoenix Film Festival, that it won for best director and best actress at the Palm Beach Film Festival, and was winner for best comedy film at the Worldfest in Houston in no way clouds my judgment. It is just nice not to be the only one to love a quirky, off beat comedy that is interested more in character than in easy jokes.
Peter Falk plays Morris Applebaum, a celebrated New York thespian who is now ninety years old. He sends a letter to each of his thee children, a TV producer (San Giacomo), a shrink (David Paymer), and a BMW dealer (Judge Reinhold in his as always strong supporting role status). The kids rush to New York to figure out what is going on and stop Morris from going through with his plan. This may sound dramatic but do not forget these kids were raised in the theatre, are Jewish and so full of angst, and of course all have issues of their own.
The theatrical origins of Checking Out, a play by Allen Swift, are at times evident as most of the movie takes place in Morris' apartment. Still, the Richard Marcus screenplay airs the staging out by having the family chase Morris through the streets of NYC from time to time as they try to figure out what the old man is up to. This makes for a few funny moments, at least a couple of genuine slapstick gags, and a great comedy movie DVD.
What makes Checking Out such a great comedy is not only Peter Falk as Morris but the writing. There are so many very funny scenes and lines here you have to credit director Jeff Hare for not indulging and keeping the movie as tight as it can be.
I get to watch and review a lot of comedies since we started this site. After a while, there is only so much room for the DVDs. Checking Out is one movie I am keeping though from time to time I will certainly lend it to a friend saying You've got to watch this. This is brilliant.
This is one DVD that really should have extras and cast and director commentary but, unfortunately, it does not.