Sam and Molly have been married for forty years, yet from the fist twenty minutes of “Fish in the Bathtub,” you’d think they would’ve been divorced thirty-nine years ago. Not only do they not get along, they work at not getting along. They are the Bickersons with a vengeance. Fortunately for this arduous, blown up sitcom that attempts to swagger like a Jewish “All in the Family,” veteran actors, and real life husband and wife tandem Jerry Stiller and Anna Meara, infuse Sam and Molly with an appreciable degree of dignity and wit.
The recursive domestic tit-for-tat routine sputters along until it finds its defining, dramatic turning point when Molly, incensed about cigar smoke and air freshener, moves out. She invades her son’s (played by a grating Mark Ruffalo) fragile home life: he’s contemplating an affair and tries to shuffle Molly off onto his New Agey sister (Jane Adams of “Happiness” fame). The object of the title has little to do with the plot, except that Sam dumps a big ugly fish in the tub in yet another contrived ploy to needle Molly. Many of the film’s peevish attempts at comedy misfire, and like the struggling fish, it may be in its element but its a long way from home.