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By Merle Bertrand | April 22, 2002

One wouldn’t think that getting pressed into service as a softball umpire would be the most advisable form of therapy when you’ve just been released from the mental hospital after a failed suicide attempt. Then again, maybe it’s just standard practice for unorthodox psychiatrist Dr. Eric Orloff; a sort of sink or swim shock therapy that he provides for all his patients.
The subject in this case is Martin Flam, a man haunted by “The Egg Roll Incident”; a tragedy from his past for which he takes the blame. Martin, you see, designs mascot costumes for an advertising firm. When the client on his last job refused to allow Martin’s giant egg roll design to have eyes because that wouldn’t be “realistic” — egg rolls, after all, don’t have eyes — the actor wearing the suit fell into a lake on a smoke break and sunk like a soggy dumpling.
Now that same client is at it again as Martin struggles to get back in the saddle. Unless Martin, with Dr. Orloff’s assistance, can learn to successfully stand up for himself against his obnoxious boss and their amoral, out of his mind client, four young girl scouts pressed into service as barbecued spare rib models might meet a similarly horrific fate.
Brought to us courtesy of an improv troupe known as the Upright Citizen’s Brigade and director Lawrence Blume, “Martin and Orloff” initially turns the dour field of psychiatry into an amusing, absurdist romp. Unfortunately, the further the film progresses, the more it relies on silliness and triteness for ever-less frequent laughs. Blume trades in the bumpy and tortured evolving relationship between Martin and Dr. Orloff for such far less effective conventions as: a patient whom Orloff put under hypnosis…and can’t remember the magic word to get her out of it, her behemoth of a boyfriend with anger management issues, and his stripper girlfriend who won’t have sex with Dr. Orloff until he agrees to marry her. By film’s end, Martin and Orloff have unwittingly enlisted the aid of this ragtag band of patients and associates to help Martin face down his demons; an unorthodox form of group therapy that simply smacks of off-network sitcom writing at its most cliched.
It’s too bad, too, because this film had great potential. Like one of Pavlov’s dogs, the viewer eventually comes to realize that every time Dr. Orloff utters the phrase, “This will be good for you, Marty!” he or she should get ready for a bizarre, semi-disastrous mini-adventure.
As such, even though this film swings for the fences but doesn’t quite connect, “Martin and Orloff” is still a solid double off the wall.

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