Flirting with Disaster is a 1996 American comedy film written and directed by David O. Russell about a young father's search for his biological parents. The film stars Ben Stiller, Patricia Arquette, Téa Leoni, Mary Tyler Moore, George Segal, Alan Alda and Lily Tomlin. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival.
Mel Coplin and his wife, Nancy, live in New York, near Mel's neurotic, Jewish, adoptive parents, Ed and Pearl Coplin. Mel and Nancy have just had their first child, and they refuse to name their son until Mel can discover the identity of his biological parents. After an adoption agency employee locates his biological mother's name in a database, Mel decides to meet her personally.
Tina, the sexy but highly incompetent adoption agency employee, decides to accompany Mel, Nancy, and the newborn on a trip to San Diego to meet Mel's biological mother. The trip, of course, does not go as planned, and ends up becoming a tour of the United States.
First, Mel is introduced to Valerie, a blond Scandinavian woman with Confederate roots whose twin daughters are at least six inches taller than Mel. They quickly realize that Valerie is not Mel's biological mother, and Tina scrambles to get the correct information from the agency database. Meanwhile, Nancy becomes jealous as Tina and Mel begin to flirt.
Next, the group heads to rural Michigan with the hope of meeting the man whose name appears as the person who delivered infant Mel to the adoption agency. The man, Fritz Boudreau, turns out to be a trucker with a violent streak. However, when he discovers that Mel might be his son, he becomes instantly friendly and lets Mel drive his semi-trailer truck, which Mel immediately crashes into a Post Office building.
This leads to a run-in with two ATF agents, Tony and Paul, who are gay and in a relationship with each other. It is discovered that Tony and Nancy went to high school together. Charges are dismissed, and Fritz Boudreau tells Mel that he is not Mel's father, but only handled Mel's adoption because Mel's biological parents were incapacitated. Tina locates the current address of Mel's biological parents, which turns out to be in rural New Mexico. Tony and Paul surprise everyone by deciding to tag along on the trip.
While Mel and Tina become close, Nancy finds herself flirting with Tony, who returns the compliment, causing friction. The trip through rural New Mexico is fraught with more problems. At last the whole crowd descends on the front porch of Mel's true biological parents, Richard and Mary Schlichting. They are asked to stay the night. While Richard and Mary are more than welcoming, Mel's biological brother Lonnie is overly rude and jealous. It is during dinner that Mel discovers that Richard and Mary had to let Mel be adopted because they were in jail for making and distributing LSD in the late 1960s. Not only that, but Richard and Mary continue to manufacture LSD, as becomes apparent when Lonnie, in an attempt to dose Mel with acid at dinner, accidentally doses Paul, the ATF agent.
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