Ruben and Ethel

A young man must look after a grouchy old woman as part of his community service agreement.

Genre: Comedy

Length: 11:53

Free To View

2.5 out of 5 stars

Producer/s : Cynthia Wall,

Director/s : Peter Dorn-Ravlin, 

Writer/s : Peter Dorn-Ravlin, 

Actor/s : Mitchell Ritter, Kathy O'Grady


A month of hell

It’s a good concept: dope fiend Ruben must work for an old lady for a month to avoid a jail term. And the film gets off to a lively start, with Ruben in his car, spilling scalding coffee onto his nuts, which causes the accident that got him into trouble.

Ken Krauss as Ruben’s lawyer steals the next scene, telling Ruben off for his marijuana use, then producing a giant bong for them to share. According to IMDB, Krauss is a Hollywood editor who has worked on Schwarzenegger, Depp and Dwayne Johnson movies. He has great charisma, and some big name comic character actors like Bob Odenkirk or Alan Arkin might have been light of a few credits if he’d gone into acting.

This opening is a good launchpad for the massive comic potential of Ruben’s month with the grouchy and outspoken Ethel. “I’m not one of your bitches! Get to work!” she says, and we settle down to enjoy Act Two.

But someone should have taken writer-director Peter Dorn-Ravlin aside before shooting, and sent him on a comedy workshop, because a quarter of the way in we’ve reached the end of the humour. Then a screenwriting course, because through the core of film there’s no buildup either of enmity or affection between Ruben and Ethel. With no arc, the predictable ending falls as dull and as flat as the carpet Ruben has to clean. Its sentimentality is unearned.

Mitchell Ritter as Ruben and Kathy O’Grady as Ethel don’t shine like Ken Krauss did, but one suspects it’s not their fault – they simply don’t have enough to work with.