“The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” is writer-director Noah Baumbach’s latest foray into nattery family dysfunction, and, like much of his previous work, most notably “The Squid and the Whale,” it’s alternately wide-ranging and self-indulgent.
The New York Jewish milieu of so many of his movies has led to the inevitable comparisons with Woody Allen, but Baumbach is essentially his own man: He works out of his own experience, or at least that is the illusion he presents in his new film, which focuses on a bitter, high-handed patriarch, Harold Meyerowitz, in a bravura turn by a bearded Dustin Hoffman, and his embattled children, especially his two sons, Matthew (Ben Stiller), a successful financial planner who escaped to the West Coast, and Danny (Adam Sandler), a sad sack whose only success story is his doting daughter, Eliza (Grace Van Patten).
Besides Hoffman, the actors, who also include Judd Hirsch as a rival sculptor whom Harold disdains, and Emma Thompson, as Harold’s hippie-ish fourth wife, are all lively and good, and Baumbach has a gift for staging family arguments. The film does drag on, though, without a great deal of visual distinction, and as the familial complications pile up, the movie seems less like a full-scale dramatic rendering and more like a smartypants comic contraption. Grade: B (Rated TV-MA for obscenity, including sexual dialogue, nudity and a drug reference.)