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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.


Relative Strangers (2006) on IMDb

Plot Overview

Temper control issues landed Dr. Richard Clayton (Ron Livingston) in jail where he developed a new therapy. He then finished his doctorate, wrote a book, Ready, Set, Go, and is now promoting his therapy on the radio show, “Group Hug” on WAPR. As we watch various listeners try out his untested method, we see that they are subject to relapse with the right stimulus.

Richard's brother Mitch (Bob Odenkirk) has never done a lick of homework in his life and has trouble getting dates, he's such a loser. When Richard gets engaged to the luscious Ellen Minnola (Neve Campbell), Mitch gets jealous and lets slip that Richard is adopted. Mitch tightens the screws and ends up confessing, “I never meant it to go this far.”


Richie's snobby, adoptive parents Doug (Edward Hermann) and Arleen Clayton (Christine Baranski) are depicted as “narrow-minded, hyper­critical individuals.” Their Latina maid speaks no English and is of questionable immigration status. Lighting their drive­way is a statuette of a lantern boy in smart livery. He's black. While the 13th amendment abolished involuntary servitude of persons, it doesn't prevent an unpaid black statue from doing the work. Depicting Negro slavery itself is one step below the statue of a soldier fighting to maintain it.

Richie imagines his birth parents as “bi-racial, open-minded, liberal humanitarians.” That conforms to his sympathetic nature where he's “always identified with the struggle of the black man.” His book agency has a black secretary, his fiancée has a negress friend, and he appears on the Holly Davis Show hosted by an African-American (Star Jones.) Not an ounce of race prejudice is to be found in this couple.

Lincoln's faceWilliam P. Pickett, discussing Abraham Lincoln's solution the negro problem, has written:

The reason the negro has failed to achieve a higher position is superficially considered to arise from the fact that there exists against him what is called “race prejudice” on the part of the white, which closes to him every avenue of opportunity. The employment of the word “prejudice” in this relation is singularly inaccurate. By derivation and established meaning, it signifies an opinion formed or decision made with­out due examination; a prejudgment of the matter involved. Such is not the attitude of the Caucasian towards the negro. In strict accuracy we may say that in the United States there exists on the part of the white people a strong antipathy against the negro, not superficial or unreason­able but founded upon the instinct for racial purity dominating the superior race. (16–17.)

In “Relative Strangers” a radio audience attempting Dr. Clayton's protocol for managing anger includes a big, black bubba in prison. As an operational necessity, prison populations are segregated according to race. This is not prejudice but preservation. Regard­less, no white, movie audience member is going to want to share a cell with black bubba and his anger issues. This is casting for an artistic effect rather than a political statement.

Pickett has gone on to write:

[A] characteristic of the negro which has contributed to produce the present problem is his absolute unassimi­lability with the Caucasian. Men and women of differing strains of blood,—Celtic, Latin, Magyar, or Semitic—, arriving upon our shores, are at the most within two or three generations incorporated into the body of the people, and their descend­ants quickly lose all their distinctive traits of their origin. Religious predilections may persist, but such offer but slight impediment to the full acquirement of the typical American character. Immigrants and their children inter­marry with the descendants of the early colonists and with each other, and the unfailing result is the early fusion of the various Caucasian elements. All these elements appear to be susceptible of assimilation. (12)

Richard and Ellen are devout Catholics to the extent of rating a big church wedding. Richard's birth parents Frank (Danny DeVito) and Agnes Menure (Kathy Bates) belong to the Church of C & E (i.e., Christmas and Easter.) Aside from that, they are a couple of hay­seeds (“I grew up on a farm”) but good people. The American melting pot metaphor is transformed into a cheese ball, and Richard is utterly unable to relate to them, which contributes both to the humor and drama as there comes a point when Ellen must re-evaluate what kind of a man Richard is before they tie the knot.

In Pickett's writing, “We are not called upon here to adopt or refute the scriptural theory of the curse of Noah resting upon Ham and his descendants, condemning them to perpetual slavery” (30.) However, the intro­ductory song, “Accentuate the Positive,” in our movie does reference “Noah and his Ark,” so a word is in order. Gen. 9:20-23 holds a biblical reference to the incident in question. Noah cursed the offspring (Canaan) of Ham, (Gen. 9:24-27) “And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.”

Said curse used to be pretty well understood: Writer Bodie Hodge (134) quotes “Bible Questions and Answers,” The Golden Age (July 24, 1929): p. 702.

Question: Is there anything in the Bible that reveals the origin of the Negro?

Answer: It is generally believed that the curse which Noah pronounced upon Canaan was the origin of the Black race. Certain it is that when Noah said, “Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be to his brethren,” he pictured the future of the Colored race.

“Japheth … shall dwell in the tents of Shem”, presages the integration of the White races in the melting pot of America, what would have been under­stood at its founding by Jefferson's protean expression that all men had been created equal. Richard balks at accepting his anglo heritage, what Ellen considers accepting people for who they are, which we all do. Instead, he has devoted his internal energies to a chauvinistic promotion of the colored cause.

Production Values

” (2006) was directed by Greg Glienna who also wrote its screen­play along with Peter Stass. It stars Danny DeVito, Kathy Bates, and Ron Living­ston. The cast was excellent, mostly playing to type. MPAA rated it PG–13 for sex-related humor and language. It wasn't released in U.S. theaters but went straight to DVD.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

RS does not hold the comedic high ground, but for good, low-ball humor, it's a winner. Even its music is catchy. It can cheer your day.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years with guidance. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good for Groups. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall movie rating: Three stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Accentuate the Positive.” Written by Harold Arden and John Mercer. Performed by Jack Sheldon. Pub. Harwin Music (ASCAP.)

Hodge, Bodie. Tower of Babel: The Cultural History of Our Ancestors. Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Pub., 2013. Print.

Pickett, William P. The Negro Problem: Abraham Lincoln's Solution. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1909. Print.